Jennifer F. (KnJFisher) from GILLETT, PA Reviewed on 5/24/2008...
Though it poses a good moral dilemma, `Skulls' is presented in such an implausible way as to render it crippled at birth. Luke McNamara is a small town boy of modest means attending an Ivy League institution that is never really named but is obviously Yale. He is hoping to be called for membership into the Skulls, a secret society of great status and power. Members of this society have the doors of power, wealth and influence thrown wide to them. This is a dream come true for Luke, who spends much of his time fretting over the hundreds of thousands in student loans he is incurring. When he discovers that one of the members has committed a felony, he is torn between his desire for wealth, his loyalty to a friend, and his conscience.
Writer John Pogue (`U.S. Marshals') has conjured up a good moralistic tale, but it is so full of ridiculous premises that it becomes laughable. This is supposed to be a secret society where other than the members themselves, no one knows who the members are. Yet, Pogue and director Rob Cohen present it in such a way that they may as well be advertising their identities on TV. The building where the secret meetings take place is prominently marked with a Skull, and only members have keys to the building. So, Duh, anyone seen entering the building must be a Skull. New members get brand new $50,000 automobiles and $100,000 in cash, as if no one will notice this sudden burst of good fortune. The new members are branded on their wrist and we are supposed to believe that they will never be seen by anyone without their wristwatch on. The list of inconceivability goes on ad nauseam.
The acting is generally quite good. Joshua Jackson (`Cruel Intentions', `Urban Legend') is excellent as Luke. He plays the part with just the right combination of idealistic zeal and moral grounding. He gets great support from Paul Walker (`She's All That', `Varsity Blues') as Caleb Mandrake, the spoiled rich kid trying to step out of his father's shadow. Craig T. Nelson gives a wonderfully nefarious performance as the chairman of the Skulls and Caleb's father.
Maybe secret societies exist, and maybe they don't. The fact that no one is sure indicates that if they are more than mere myths, they are a lot more secret than depicted here. I rated this film a 6/10. It is an interesting idea that loses credibility in the telling.
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Mediocre cinematically but entertaining anyway...
Sonia | 10/12/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The Skulls finds us at Yale University, which you'll have to assume on your own like I did since they never actually say Yale. We meet Luke, who is a self-confessed former menace to society, working the cafeteria line and studying hard to make something of himself and hopefully go on to Harvard Law School. The only thing standing in the way of that goal for this young man is the fact that Harvard Law is a teensy weensy bit expensive. Luke, along with best friend Will (Hill Harper) and girlfriend Chloe (Leslie Bibb) speculate on his chances to be chosen to join the Skulls, a secret society on campus which is rumored to pay for such things as law school bills. It is the secrecy of the society that becomes a rift between Luke and his pals. His buddy Will speculates, "It's secret and it's elite - it can't be good." Insert ominous music here. By the stroke of midnight on that same eve, Luke finds himself in the midst of the Skulls initiation ceremony. The rules that govern the Skulls are grounded in loyalty to the other members, a willingness to do anything to protect the other members, and keeping the integrity of the Skulls by not divulging any of the proceedings to those on the outside. How can an organization that spawned no less than three U.S. Presidents be bad? Besides, you get a kickin' new watch to cover up the Skull logo they brand into your wrist, you've got money in your bank account, they set you up with a fancy car AND even if you have a girlfriend, they've got a couple more for you. Luke McNamara is thinking all this is too good to be true....and he's right, it is. It is only at the time of a murder cover-up that Luke begins to realize how corrupt the Skulls are and how high their influence and power runs. Luke is warned by Skulls soulmate Caleb Mandrake (Paul Walker) to back off and not try to dig too deep. Caleb's got a leg-up considering his dad, Judge Litton Mandrake (Craig T. Nelson) is the Chairman of the Skulls organization, not to mention, has designs on the Supreme Court. As you might have guessed, The Skulls follows a pretty basic formula with the suspense, the wondering who is good and who is bad. Is an elaborate murder plot just another method to fight for control of the society? Who's the pawn and who is the player? The Skulls seems like a watered down version of The Firm. Call it the New Coke of conspiracy movies. Almost, but not quite right. Where The Firm made it very clear where the lines were drawn and the penalties for disloyalty were clear, with The Skulls, there doesn't appear to be anything at stake for the society. They talk about being a member and understanding the virtues of the organization and that the laws of the Skulls are above all other laws, but it still rings hollow. The Firm infiltrated the lives of its characters, and so does The Skulls, but it never explains why. The conflict is room temperature at best. I think they were hoping for a Firm-esque thing here, one got that feeling from the previews. I was discussing the possible plot with a friend before having seen it and he was speculating on a sequence that might go something like, "Gee, thanks for the Porsche....what's this? I have to drink blood? Ewwww." Well, he was pretty close. BUT. You had to know there was a "but" in here somewhere. So help me, I was entertained. There are days when, forgive me, I don't want to think too hard. It's sort of comforting, sometimes, to know that a movie is going to have the appropriately shaky camera shots during the tense scenes, and the music will swell ominously at just the precise moment. You know yourself, and you know the movies you like. Then there are times, hopefully, when you allow yourself to sit there and be entertained, pure and simple, without apologies. On a different day, in another frame of mind, The Skulls might have really really irritated me. So, I gave some, but not all of my critical self the day off in a manner of speaking. The acting is OK, it compliments the New Coke attitude of the script. Joshua Jackson is likable, and Paul Walker is moderately interesting as the spoiled heir-to-the-throne Caleb. You get to see Craig T. Nelson as a mean, creepy guy instead of the bumbling confused Coach character you see now on reruns. The most interesting performance is that of William Petersen who plays a U.S. Senator that is in the Skulls organization. The camera work is predictable but still fun. The soundtrack is pretty cool, which is sometimes the only reason movies like this aren't immediately forgotten. However, there is nothing riveting or conflicting enough to keep you glued to your seat. You know what you like. Sometimes you're in the mood for something different. Sometimes you're in the mood for something ridiculous in the hopes of being entertained."
President Bush's Club
Blah | New York, New York | 02/10/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Skulls is obviously based on the society at Yale known as the Skulls and Bones Society of which the Bush's are perhaps the most famous members. This is of course a hollywood move and not a documentary so dont take it too serious. It is however a highly entertaining movie with a fairly descent plot. The straight to video sequel is dismal at best."
Fraternity vs. Secret society
Justin Long | Lorton, Virginia United States | 12/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I recommend this movie to anyone considering joining a frat and/or is between the ages of 18-27. Rob Cohen does an excellent job in attempting to portray what goes on inside the walls of the "Skulls" secret society. The Skulls - a highly powerful secret society - provide third year college students with expensive cars, girls, and powerful ties...an enormous key to future political power. The lucky members chosen each year at midnight (approx. 15 ?) must go through intense hazing and rituals dating back to the early 1800's. Each prospective member unites with another to become soul mates. Each pair of soul mates tell each other their darkest secrets to become closer and to ensure loyalty in the most defying situation.In the movie, Luke (Joshua Jackson) demonstrates how joining the Skulls has placed tension on his friendship with Chloe (Leslie Bibb) and his roommate (Hill Harper). Sworn to keep the happenings of the Skulls a secret, the line between friendship and loyalty to the Skulls becomes very thin. Luke son learns that the Skulls are not only watching his every move, but they monitor his close friend Chloe as well...-A must see for college students!"
The Skulls Action never stops!
Sonia | 08/12/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a big fan of both Joshua Jackson and Paul Walker, The Skulls was almost too good to be true. I have seen it so many times, I kow it by heart! Jakcsons character, Lucas MacNamera, is a lower cless student at an Ivy league School, who one day gets accepted into a Secret Society called the Skulls. Caleb Mandrake, Walker's Character, is a rich student attending the same university who meets Luke due to fate and they become instant buds. For the first time, Luke's life is going great, but when his best friend Will suddenly appears dead, he knows it has somethinng to do with the Skulls, and then he realizes, if they could give him that much, imagine what they could take away! I really loved the plot, because it just kept getting thicker and thicker, and the intense subject matter was lightened once in a while by witty one-liners. I enjoyed it very much, but I would not recommend it for younger viewers."
Josh | Sc, Usa | 10/22/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Skulls is a well-paced and well-acted thriller. Joshua Jackson is Luke McNamara. An Ivy League college student who isn't doing to well with paying his tuition. To certify his place in completing college and have a successful future, he wants in with the Skulls. An intermediate group of young men who are guaranteed anything they want in life. After getting in, Luke's life begins to fall apart as his best friend is murdered and his girlfriend is on the run. Should Luke trust the secret society and his new friend Caleb, or try to get out of the society alive? The Skulls, for some reason, gives me an at-home feeling. I kind of relate to each character in a way, and that shows that each actor gave a pretty good performance. Joshua Jackson, Paul Walker, and Leslie Bibb shine as the leads. Craig T. Nelson also gives a nice performance. The plot and pacing of The Skulls is excellent. The scenes meant to be intense are just that, and scenes meant to be heartfelt and fun are just that too. The DVD isn't loaded, but it's pretty note worthy to any fan of the movie. A commentary is given by director Bob Cohen. I actually found this quiet entertaining as Cohen explains concepts of the movie and other things. There are a few deleted scenes with commentary by Cohen. It is seen why these were cut. There's also a Making Of featurette that works mostly as a promo spot. To round it up are the theatrical trailer and some very interesting production notes. For any fan of the movie or its stars, this DVD is a must have and a must keep."