Animal Kingdom – Season 2, Episode 10: “Treasure”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 2, Episode 10: “Treasure”
Directed by Josef Kubota Wladyka
Written by T.J. Brady & Rasheed Newson

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Custody” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Leopard” – click here
Pic 1J (Finn Cole) finds grandma Smurf (Ellen Barkin) in his bed, drinking. She’s worried about who robbed her storage unit. Naturally, the kid’s nervous. He helped uncle Baz (Scott Speedman) break in, though he wasn’t the one who told him about it; Barry did that all on his own.
Speaking of him, he’s checking out the haul from Smurf’s safes. Quite the goddamn loot, too. From jewellery to stacks of bills, it’s impressive. This is one time Baz is truly off on his own. He and the other lads are in two different directions. While he’s robbing his adopted mom, Craig (Ben Robson) is heading up the next actual job. He’s still dragging Nicky (Molly Gordon) around while doing shady shit. They’ve got it all planned. But I keep seeing her winding up in handcuffs. Meanwhile, Renn (Christina Ochoa) turns up again, warning the young lady about Craig not being “worth the ride.” She’d know, she nearly died after overdosing and being left in the bathroom to die by him. My only fear, that I know is justified, is that Nicky won’t figure that out before it’s too late.
Pic 2At the bar, Pope (Shawn Hatosy) goes to see Deran (Jake Weary) before they’re supposed to get going on their end of the job’s preparations. He’s not happy, he doesn’t like that Marco (Joseph Julian Soria) and Nicky both – outsiders – are part of the job. And these are genuine, smart concerns.
The younger brother doesn’t see it as anything more than simple risk. He also believes they “owe” Craig. But, if you look at the dude’s track record he’s a junkie, one who’s caused the gang a good deal of nonsense. Remember the first we really saw a lot of Craig he got himself shot? Yeah.
J goes to see Baz, worrying about the Smurf trouble. Knowing he went back on his own after the kid was gone. Baz suddenly plays the family card, after usually keeping J at arm’s length. Now he’s ready to trust him. Hope the kid is up to the task. Playing in the rough game his uncles do is dangerous shit.
Then there’s Smurf, going off the deep end. She has a cattle prod, pumping the storage locker attendant full of voltage to get answers about what happened during the robbery. She discovers it was indeed Baz, that he was alone. She also shows the guy a picture of J, but he didn’t see him there. “Thank you,” Smurf says before heading back to the car. Where little Lena Roo (Aamya Deva Keroles) sits with headphones on. Lord, what a piece of work.
The Cody gang are now pirates. Heading out to jack a boat. Craig leads them on the job, acting more responsible than we’ve ever seen him. He isn’t exactly the hard, heavy handed leader that we see in his mother. I guess he’s trying, at least. He wants to be taken seriously by his brothers, to prove to Smurf he isn’t useless, either.
And Smurf, she’s plotting the next step in her conflict with Baz. The father, as usual, isn’t around to take care of his daughter. He’s actually watching the place. He heads inside after Smurf leaves, to find the gun stashed in the fridge. Shit, man. He’s really escalating this little war. Would he go so far as to implicate Smurf in something, or perhaps turn in evidence to drop the law on her? Whoooa, if so.
Out on the open sea, Craig plays his role as member of the staff. Pouring drinks, being polite and tending to the newly married couple celebrating. All is well. On the boat he rented under a fake ID, Nicky is practising her lines, then she calls out to the response of the US Coast Guard. A nice distraction while there’s trouble on the ocean elsewhere. Craig’s setting everything in motion, throwing lines over the side and heading down below to cut off the boat’s communications, the rest of the sabotage required.
Pic 3All the while Baz is taking a walk out to a hill in the middle of nowhere. Looks very familiar. Maybe like the place where Javi was shot in the head, buried. Is he going to dig up the body? Seems to have brought the right gear – a shovel, a suit to keep from getting anything on him. Oh, my. Baz… this is fucking intense, dude. He digs the body out, puts a bullet in the head with the gun from the fridge, then covers it all back up. Not what I expected exactly. Still wild.
Simultaneously Smurf is at his place, searching for anything at all. She looks everything, top to bottom. Wonder if she’ll come across anything. Barry was dumb enough to let himself be seen at the storage unit. What else did he forget?
The ship is stopping, just like Craig planned. Out on the smaller boat, Nicky fumbles around acting innocently dumb for the Coast Guard who are towing her back. Then we’ve got the rest of the boys, Sea-Dooing to the ship. They’ve even got clear, creepy masks! They zip tie the crew, Pope controls the captain and the bridge, as Deran looks after the crowd with Marco, using his Spanish speaking skills. Then Craig is used as a decoy, getting his face and ribs beat in by Pope and Marco; the latter seeming to pile on more than agreed.
Nevertheless, the job goes over after the money, the jewellery, everything’s collected. When one woman will not give over her ring, Marco cuts the finger off with the ring intact. Fuck, that is horrifying. This went from a robbery to a bit of torture. Craig seems fine with it. Glad they’ve got shit done. I only wonder how far the Cody gang is willing to go morally. Doesn’t sit well with Pope afterwards, though. Of all people!
Pic 4What’s with Baz spending up cash? He’s bought a car, a house for him and Lucy (Carolina Guerra). Well, the house is a place for him to stash all his earnings. As well as the massive haul from Smurf’s storage unit. Although I’m not sure if Lucy’s down. It semi-impresses, and also freaks her out, I think.
And J, my lord, J! He’s become such a jaded part of the gang. When Smurf asks if there were any problems on the latest job, he dumps the ring finger out on the table. Then watches her throw it down the garbage disposal with some bleach. Also, he took a picture of the loot on his phone. Yikes. Not a good idea, bro.
Later he goes to see an old friend, his previous neighbour Dina (Karen Malina White). They’re having a bit of dinner together, for old time’s sake; something they’ve been doing lately, apparently.  Then he goes to her bathroom. Under the sink, in a secret stash he hides some jewellery. Where there’s already several stacks of cash. Hmm. Maybe the kid’s planning not to be part of the Cody shit show much longer.
Celebrating at the bar, J gets closer to Nicky while Craig rails coke, Pope goes home for an early night, and Deran swipes around on Tinder until he finds a guy to fuck. All’s good in the land of the Codys. Although Pope isn’t actually gone home. He’s off to see Amy (Jennifer Landon), having grim visions of making love to her mixed with killing Catherine. He isn’t doing so hot after all. And J, he runs into uncle Deran giving a blowjob this time rather than getting one; no animosity anymore, since he’s come out of the closet. Oh, and Craig’s trying to get a second chance from Renn. A very tenuous, rocky one, but a second chance nonetheless.
Not to mention he asks Renn on a trip to Vegas. Maybe he’s turning a leaf. Or maybe he’s just finding other ways to be irresponsible.
Pic 5Now, Baz tells Lucy he wants to leave with her. Go to Mexico, move in her with her, her son, Lena. A happy little life, away from the family, and away from Smurf.
Goddamn. Is this the ultimate plan? To get Smurf put away, then take off down south of the border? Might be a good plan, if I didn’t think she was slippery enough to get out of it all unscathed. There’s no telling to what lengths she’ll go in order to save herself. And Baz might’ve been adopted by her, taken in from a terrible family.
But remember: he ain’t real family.
Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 12.19.31 AMWow, this was another intense slice of Animal Kingdom! A couple real interesting developments happening, from Nicky and J, as well as J and Deran sort of getting closer and less fist-to-fist, plus Pope’s mental state and now Baz v. Smurf. SO MUCH GOING DOWN. It’s unreal. Great Season 2, can’t wait to see how it closes out. We already know Season 3 is a go, that leaves me excited for how we’re going to head into a third outing. I’m feeling there’ll be a very suspenseful, suspicious, paranoid third season if things continue this route.
“The Leopard” is next week. Can hardly wait!

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Animal Kingdom – Season 1, Episode 2: “We Don’t Hurt People”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 1, Episode 2: “We Don’t Hurt People”
Directed by John Wells
Written by Jonathan Lisco

* For a review of the pilot episode, click here.
* For a review of the next episode, “Stay Close, Stick Together” – click here
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After a wild pilot, things continue on for the Cody Gang.
Well they’re certainly a good lot for hedonism. Smurf Cody (Ellen Barkin) hangs poolside with her boys, Andrew a.k.a Pope (Shawn Hatosy), Craig (Ben Robson), Deran (Jake Weary), the new addition Josh (Finn Cole), and their close man Baz (Scott Speedman). Pope gets a bit too heavy, not playing nice with their nephew Josh. At the same time, he’s not exactly playing nice with anyone else either. Inside Smurf asks J’s girl Nicky (Molly Gordon) if she were shipwrecked and could only pick one Cody, aside from Josh, who would it be? She replies Baz is “pretty cool” and it’s easy to see that Mama Smurf is testing this young woman to see if she’s got what it takes to hang with the rough crew. Even Josh is finding it hard keeping up with his uncles and big Baz.
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Speaking of Baz, his significant other Catherine (Daniella Alonso) is pissed. Rightfully so. There’s a casualty from the job the Cody Gang pulled recently. Furthermore, we see how Baz considers Smurf’s place “home” as opposed to their own place. I can see all types of trouble from a mile away.
When Smurf gets wind of the death due to the robbery you can be sure nothing’s going to go too smooth. In other news, Craig’s wound is festering and he is getting pretty hooked on painkillers. He says it’s because he’s a big dude, but you can clearly tell he is falling down the rabbit hole. Not a good thing with the dead cop on their hands.
Smurf lets Josh know there’s a bit of serious business about to come up. He’s being slowly brought into the fold. “There are no secrets in this family. Not from one another. Especially not from me,” says Grandma Smurf. We also see the strange, quasi-incestuous relationship she has with her men, making Josh strip down his dirty clothes right in front of her. Awkward, and telling.
Then Josh witnesses an incredible moment that nobody can know about – his uncle Deran is getting a blowjob from another man. When he sees his nephew, Deran beats the man down claiming he was trying to steal a wallet. Whoa. Just… whoa. No family secrets? Yeah, okay, Smurf. Deran has his nephew join in on the beating, though you can see the young guy is apprehensive. Poor Josh, he just gets deeper and deeper in every way. And worst of all it’s as if there’s danger from some of his uncles at every corner. First Pope and his machismo, now Deran and his closeted secret. There’s a lot of danger being a Cody.


Smurf and the boys are having a meeting about what to do next. Of course Pope is not happy with any of them. Baz tries to quell Smurf’s worries about any witnesses. Then she finds out the boys took off their masks when dealing with the tweakers for the robbery. Uh oh. Well, that’s not too big of a deal, seeing as how those were addicts and they probably don’t remember much. Not well enough to rat. Meanwhile, everything else is going to shit – their vehicle is still out there, cop’s bullets in it along with Craig’s blood. Moreover, there’s dissent between Smurf and her boys. She doesn’t blame Baz, but rather her own blood, and they don’t like that. Also you have the fact Deran is now quietly pissed with nephew J for finding out his secret, so he tries to pile the grunt work on him. Afterwards, J reveals to Baz what Pope lied to Smurf about, and they start forming a subtle bond. Because let’s face it, the uncles are aggressive with their nephew, whereas Baz is more welcoming and gentle despite being a hardened criminal himself. Still, Baz lies about what “kind of family” the Cody Gang is truly.
We see how everybody is weary of Pope and exactly how his mental health is doing. Particularly Baz and Smurf, as they have a little conference together on his well-being. It’ll be interesting to watch this play out further.
Deran and Craig start tearing apart the vehicle from their robbery. The former rages against his mother and how the split goes for them economically. Craig agrees, mostly. Neither of them are too happy with Baz or Pope, either. But what’s most intriguing is seeing how Craig hides his pill intake from even Deran, as he doesn’t want anybody questioning his state of mind. None of these guys are open in the family. Secrets are everywhere.


When Josh finds his room torn apart he also finds Pope. Looking for the watch he gave his nephew. They’ve got to clean up loose ends. The uncle is convinced his nephew is hiding things; secrets, who knows what else. Then he goes on a brief nostalgia train about his days, hiding things from Smurf. Not much has changed. I like the relationship between Pope and Josh in the series. In the film, it was great, as well. Here, we’re able to get more of a look at the antagonistic behaviour of Pope towards his nephew and that is more fleshed out with an extended series, as opposed to a film under two hours.
Even worse, there’s Pope influencing Nicky. I’m afraid for her. Those who’ve seen the movie know there’s danger for her involved with the family. So it’s only a matter of time before there’s a serious threat to her safety. The more we see of Pope, the more I worry about what he’ll soon do.
Baz and Smurf are so much like actual mother and son. We hear more talk about Pope, that he’s off medication and that it might be worth trying to get him back on some soon. Although neither of them are too optimistic about that. And then they burn up the watches, so that’s a loose end cauterised, literally in fire. More worry about Pope when he shows up suddenly at Catherine’s, playing with her daughter, and no sign of Baz. Yikes. He’s a creepy bastard.
Now we start to hear about Pope sending letters to Catherine. There’s a love for her that Pope has held since they were young. She apparently got drunk and something happened between them. Baz knows nothing of it, and Pope wonders if maybe he should tell him about it. Oh, man. There are so many nasty things going on within the walls of the Cody Gang and the family itself. Only so much can build up before it breaks. Is Catherine’s little girl of Baz, or of Pope? That’s one to think about.

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Mama Smurf is up to a few tricks. She smashes a heel of her shoes, scratches up her hand until it’s bloody. She lies to a guy so she can get into an apartment, then into a bathroom. She steals pills. Are those for Pope? We get a quick flash of what looks like Smurf as a little girl, doing the same thing with her own mother. A very great moment. In the meantime, Craig is strung out on pills and not getting any work done. Deran notices. He notices the wound in Craig’s shoulder is getting hideous. Then they decide just to burn the rest of the vehicle. Bad move? Sure is, at least for the fact Smurf won’t be too happy about it. Josh arrives just as they’re doing the dirty. More secrets for him to keep.
Baz is cleaning up after someone, an older man. Likely his father. For a moment, he contemplates shooting him in the head. There’s lots more to why Baz is a member of the Cody Gang, and the family as it stands. I want to see more about that, so I look forward to exploring his backstory throughout the series. I was always curious about that in the film, as he seemed like such an integral part of the gang. He is even more so here. Later we see Mama Smurf is crushing up pills to sneak into Pope’s food. Real good idea there. Also, we hear more about Baz being taken into the house. Smurf talks about when he first came to them. He hid food, not sure he’d be fed there. Terrible parents at home. “I dont how you survived,” Smurf laments.


When Baz goes home he finds Catherine not herself. She worries about the dead cop, all the commotion on television. Baz assures her nothing will come of it for them. Everything’s taken care of, as he says. Don’t be so sure of that. Mostly, Catherine worries for her daughter, and what could happen if the SWAT team bursts in. He promises to lay himself down if that’s the case. Then he discovers the doll Pope brought her and Catherine lies, saying it came from a store somewhere. Ah, the lies are EVERYWHERE!
And Craig, he keeps chopping lines and pushing back the pain. That’s because he’s preparing to do some homemade surgery. Smurf, she’s upstairs watching her insane son Pope outside, naked, staring into the moon. When she hears a bunch of noise downstairs she finds Craig, mutilating himself. So it’s off to Mexico for a bit of low-key surgery. But what else? Baz has a woman down south of the border. Jesus. The lies are seeping out from every crack.
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A great follow-up of a second episode. Next up is “Stay Close, Stick Together” and it promises plenty. This is an excellent series in addition to the film. I know many, like myself, were wary. But this is proving, with each chapter, that Animal Kingdom has power as a television show. All the acting is so spectacular, loving Ellen Barkin, Shawn Hatosy, and Scott Speedman, but everyone else is just as good, too.

MEGAN IS MISSING Illustrates Youth at Risk

Megan Is Missing. 2011. Directed & Written by Michael Goi.
Starring Amber Perkins, Rachel Quinn, Dean Waite, Jael Elizabeth Steinmeyer, Kara Wang, Brittany Hingle, Carolina Sabate, April Stewart, and John K. Frazier. Trio Pictures.
Unrated. 85 minutes.
Crime/Drama/Horror


MV5BMTU0NzYxNjIzM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTU0NDM1Mw@@._V1_SX640_SY720_There are a ton of different found footage horror movies hitting the market in the past 5-10 years. Especially now since Paranormal Activity absolutely ran its premise dry with a bunch of sequels and spin-offs and whatever.
Sometimes it’s hard to wade through the ocean of shit that comes out from independent filmmakers trying to break into the business with a cheap, effective little horror that draws on realism to make things scary.
Problem is, there are certain filmmakers who end up just crossing over from realism into exploitation. They take a subject that could be effective if they were to do it as a normal film, and instead create something that crosses the borders of where it needs to go and where it really ends up going.
Megan Is Missing most definitely is one of the films that becomes exploitative instead of being properly scary. There’s no real suspense or tension here, it feels like everything is just being milked for all its worth – especially the sexualization of these teen characters. Supposedly based on a true story, Michael Goi takes on the guise of trying “warn of the dangers on the internet”, as if that needs to be harped on any more than we’ve already seen before. What bothers me is that part about being based on/inspired by a true story. There is very little here based on the true story; I won’t waste my time explaining, but search out the case of Ward Weaver III who murdered two young girls. They met a similar fate to the girls in this film. Apart from that tiny detail, mostly at the end of the movie, there’s nothing else resembling the two. So much of what Goi does is a desperate attempt to make the story found footage, which is never good because the whole concept is forced in and this whole thing could’ve been much more interesting crime-drama/thriller than a sub-genre horror film.
megan-is-missing-2011-amy555157_175542802599135_1293421673_nMost of this movie revolves around a fear of internet predators. Now, don’t get me wrong – they are out there. By the hundreds of thousands, even. Maybe more. I just feel like Goi, as a writer/director, has exploited that whole angle of things. I mean, linking this to a ‘real story’ feels to me a desperate plea in order to involve people in the supposed realism of this found footage film.
There are scenes where girls are at a party, making out, there’s a blowjob performed by Megan (Rachel Quinn). Then in another scene, Megan recounts in great detail how she gave her first one at the age of ten, to a camp counsellor; she and her friend Amy (Amber Perkins) giggle and Amy asks questions. I mean, I’m not saying movies can’t be made about teenage sexual issues. Not at all. I just feel like this is totally making the essence of the film seeing how these girls, mostly the character of Megan, are young, sexual women ahead of their time. It focuses so much on the sexuality of these girls that I’m actually disgusted. Again, not saying these types of people don’t exist. It’s just ridiculous how much of a focus Goi hones in on the aspects of her sexuality.
Worst example: even as Megan is on the news reported missing, one of the photos onscreen is of her, tongue out, licking a butter knife full of peanut butter. I mean – really, Goi? Why even include that one? Constantly painting the character of Megan as “slutty”. It’s like a bit slut shaming the whole time. Then, it’s as if her friend Amy is a victim of her own friend’s perceived “sluttiness”. I couldn’t handle it. I thought the way Goi wrote/handled the material as director was just so bad and shameful.
15There’s absolutely a way that Megan Is Missing could have been an effective horror. Or even as I said, this could’ve played out just as well/way better if it were filmed as a normal movie, not found footage, and played as a crime-drama with thriller elements. I mean, it could’ve even had a Gone Girl-esque vibe in terms of the whole disappearance in Fincher’s film – there could be built, with a tweaked script, a solid movie out of what Goi had in mind.
Unfortunately somewhere along the line Goi’s intentions were mixed and the lines crossed. It’s like he wanted to make this as a part of wanting to add commentary to a found footage horror. Instead, he began to focus too much on the overt sexuality of the character Megan, he pushes too much then – especially in the final 20 minutes or so – to make things totally exploitative. There could’ve easily been culled a good deal of tension, lots of suspense and dread, however, there’s none of that.
vlcsnap-2012-09-21-12h11m05s255_zpsa8390b76All we get in terms of horror is a shocking finale. Really, it’s just too much. I’ve seen plenty of disturbing movies. This is not one of those that works in an effective sense. Just a load of flashy shock horror trying to lull us into calling this some sort of good horror movie. It isn’t.
I can only give this movie about 1 star. There are elements to this which I thought worked, but only a couple. For instance, I think Amber Perkins did a swell job acting the part of Megan’s friend Amy Herman. It was a tough role and she did what she could with it; not a great script, or dialogue, yet she pulls off the little part of the film she could. Other than that, nothing worth seeing. The barrel shock sort of got me, it’s disturbing, but ultimately there is no substance at all. No style either.
A forgettable, rotten movie that I’ll never ever watch again.