BARE BONES: PLEASE STAND BY (2017)

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PLEASE STAND BY (2017)

Story finds Wendy (Dakota Fanning), a once temper-prone, autistic young woman, trying to convince her older sister, Audrey (Alice Eve) that she is ready to come home and can be responsible around Audrey’s baby daughter. At the same time, the Star Trek obsessed Wendy wants to submit a script in a Star Trek script contest sponsored by Paramount Pictures. To enter her script and prove she is a capable and responsible adult, Wendy begins a road-trip to L.A. to deliver her screenplay to the studio, personally, with her panicked counselor (Toni Collette) and worried sister in hot pursuit.

This is a sweet and charming little gem directed by Ben Lewin from script by Michael Golamco, that treats it’s subject with sensitivity, yet without overdosing on melodrama. Fanning’s nerdy Wendy is a very endearing character and it’s actually fun to watch this determined young woman try to overcome the constraints of her condition, accomplish her goals and prove she can be functional and responsible like everyone else. The script never pities it’s subject, just presents them as everyday people who face different challenges than the rest of us. The Star Trek angle is also fun, too, as Wendy can match the biggest nerd in Trek lore and maybe understands the characters better than most. The cast are all exceptional, especially lead Fanning, who really makes Wendy a three dimensional person we can emotionally invest in. A sweet, charming and sometimes fun little gem that treats it’s subject with the respect and sensitivity it deserves. Also stars Happy Death Day’s Jessica Rothe as a devious young mother Wendy encounters on her journey and an appearance by TV legend Marla Gibbs as a sympathetic senior. Highly Recommended.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: CHOSEN SURVIVORS (1974)

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CHOSEN SURVIVORS (1974)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

70s disaster/sci-fi flick has a select group of people sent into a bomb shelter deep below the earth’s crust as nuclear war breaks out on the surface. This diverse group of people were chosen to ensure the human race’s continued existence in case such a scenario occurred. Mankind’s survival comes into question, however, as the group find that they are not in the shelter alone.

While this flick had the right premise for an entertaining chiller, it is directed with deadpan dullness by Sutton Roley from a script by H.B. Cross. Roley’s body of work is predominately in episodic television and it shows, as the film looks like the episode of a TV show. For the most part the film is extremely talky with characters whining, crying or yelling at each other over their predicament for most of the run time. The idea of vampire bats invading an advanced bomb shelter is amusing, but Roley has no idea what to do with it and what few scenes of bloody bat carnage there are, are by-the-numbers and have very little bite. While we have some veteran actors here, the characters are not very interesting, or all that likable, so we really don’t care if they end up as bat food. The SPFX are pitifully bad with the bat swarms being terrible animated blobs swirling about and the bloodshed is strictly routine. The pace is rather slow and it all adds up to a waste of what could have been a fun idea.

Roley doesn’t get much out of a cast of decent actors, either. Jackie Cooper is the stereotype arrogant and angry businessman. Bradford Dillman is the nerdy scientist with a secret. Richard Jaeckel is the military representative who knows more than he is letting on and Alex Cord is a character simply there for breeding purposes.  The cast also features Diana Muldar and Barbara Babcock as female members of the ‘chosen’ who also seem to be just there for procreation. A cast of veterans completely wasted.

This is a sad misuse of a good exploitation movie premise. It’s extremely talky and is directed very by-the-numbers by Sutton Roley. When the bats do attack, the FX are laughable and even the PG rated bloodshed is too tame to make an impact. If there ever is a flick that could use a remake by a director that gets the material, it’s this one.

-MonsterZero NJ

rated 2 vampire bats.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: VICTOR CROWLEY (2017)

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VICTOR CROWLEY (2017)

Fourth installment of Adam Green’s slasher homage series takes place ten years after the last one with survivor Andrew Yong (Parry Shen) becoming a bit of a cult celebrity after writing a book about his encounter with Victor Crowley. On route to an interview, his plane crashes right into Crowley’s killing ground, Honey Island Swamp. At the same time, a group of amateur filmmakers head into the swamp to make a trailer for a proposed film on Crowley. The plane survivors and the filmmakers soon find out that Crowley’s legend is all too true.

Adam Green returns to the director’s chair…after abdicating it to B.J. McDonnell for part III…and again writes. The result is a lazy, by-the-numbers sequel with a few laughs and gory moments here and there, but the “been there done that” is heavily setting in. Green doesn’t offer anything we haven’t seen before in this series and delivers a fourth dose of the same gory kills and goofy humor in the same setting. Fans of this series will probably enjoy the familiarity, but if you are looking for Green to do something innovative to freshen up his franchise, you’ll be extremely disappointed. The gore FX are well done, but the film otherwise looks cheap and restricts a good two-thirds of the action to the wrecked plane interior and the immediate grounds surrounding it. The film centers on the whiny Andrew Yong and the likes of Danielle Harris’ vengeful Marybeth Dunston are sadly missed.

Kane Hodder returns as Crowley and stomping around and grunting is basically all the role requires him to do. Shen tries hard, but Yong is a supporting character and promoting him to lead really doesn’t help. Laura Ortiz shows a bit more spunk as movie make-up artist Rose and Dave Sheridan is fine as wannabe actor turned hero, Dillon. We also get horror vets Felissa Rose and Tiffany Shepis as Yong’s agent and ill-fated passenger, Casey, respectively. The cast get the material and go with it.

Overall, this is basically just more of the same and not very effectively at that. Adam Green doesn’t do anything to freshen up his slasher homage series and falls back on the same ole, same ole for his latest chapter in the Victor Crowley saga. It just comes across as lazy. The first film was amusing and the two sequels had their moments, but this fourth flick shows a franchise definitely running out of swamp gas.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 hatchets.

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JAN. 26-28

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to the reviews here at The Movie Madhouse!)

1. “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” $23.5 Million

2. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” $16.4 Million

3. “Hostiles” $10.2 Million

4. “The Greatest Showman” $9.5 Million

5. “The Post” $8.85 Million

6. “12 Strong” $8.6 Million

7. “Den of Thieves” $8.4 Million

8. “The Shape of Water” $5.7 Million

9. “Paddington 2” $5.6 Million

10. “Padmaavat” $4.2 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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ASH VS. EVIL DEAD SEASON 3 GETS A TRAILER AND POSTERS!

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I know I’m a little late with this, but…A new trailer…and some cool character pictures…of Ash vs Evil Dead season 3 are here! Bruce Campbell is back with returning Ray Santiago as Pablo, Dana DeLorenzo as Kelly and Lucy Lawless as Ruby, with Aussie actress Arielle Carver-O’Neill joining the cast as Ash’s daughter, Brandy. The series premiers on Starz on 2/25/18 and I personally can’t wait!

-MonsterZero NJ

Sources: Youtube/Starz

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BARE BONES: MOM AND DAD (2017)

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MOM AND DAD (2017)

Darkly humorous flick has a mysterious “attack” reversing a parent’s natural instincts to protect their children and turning homicidal on their offspring instead. The film focuses on the dysfunctional Ryan family, mom Kendall (Selma Blair), dad Brent (Nicolas Cage), teen daughter Carly (Anne Winters) and little brother Josh (Zackary Arthur), as an already unstable home becomes a battle for survival when the Ryan parents gleefully try to murder their children.

Written and directed by Brian Taylor (Crank, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance), this is an unapologetic-ally over-the-top and sometimes gruesome flick that is not afraid to “go there”. The source of the attack, that seems to emanate from TV and computer screens, isn’t revealed, but Taylor revels in it’s effects. We get some very chilling sequences of parents slaughtering their offspring quite happily, including a very effective Dawn of The Dead style scene of a horde of parents attacking a school to get at their young, and a delivery room sequence that chills to the bone. What makes it work is that the writer/ director has a very twisted and dark sense of humor about the proceedings that gets you giggling at some pretty unnerving acts. Once we get inside the Ryan home, Blair and Cage go full blown over-the-top as Brent and Kendall try to kill their kids…but wait till grandma and grandpa come over for dinner, it becomes a free for all. Do all parents sometimes have the inner urge to want to kill their kids? If the film has any relevant questions, that would be it, but is too busy having bloody fun with it’s concept to get too philosophical. Sure it’s not perfect. Not every scene works and the film might have been even more effective if the Ryan family were a more normal, loving family and not one already on the edge. As is, though, it’s a twisted and over-the-top flick that is refreshingly without boundaries. Also stars the great Lance Henriksen as Grandpa Mel and Marilyn Dodds Frank as Grandma Barbara.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE OPEN HOUSE (2018)

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THE OPEN HOUSE (2018)

Flick has teen Logan (Dylan Minnette) witnessing the death of his father in an accident. This forces he and his out of work mother Naomi (Piercey Dalton) to move into his aunt’s empty house, which is in the process of being sold. Once there, Logan starts to believe that he and his mom might not be alone and that someone…or something…might be stalking the two…from inside the house.

Written and directed by the duo of Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote, this is an effective thriller. The story of an intruder within a home is not new, but is given some spooky treatment here as the unknown invader’s actions go from mischievous to scary. We have the dynamic of Logan believing something is wrong and Naomi believing her son is simply showing effects of the tragedy he witnessed involving his dad. By the time mom starts to believe, too, it’s too late. We also get a creepy neighbor (Patricia Bethune) and a local man interested in Naomi (Sarif Atkins) to act as our suspects and the cast overall do good work. Minnette and Dalton especially have nice chemistry, so they click as a son and his mother. If the film fails somewhat, it is in delivering a satisfying conclusion. Without giving away details, it has some chilling moments, but leaves us a little too in the dark and asking too many questions to really end the flick on an effective note. Otherwise, it’s an entertaining and sometimes spooky thriller worth giving a stream on Netflix, where it is currently showing.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE MIDNIGHT MAN (2016)

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THE MIDNIGHT MAN (2016)

Creepypasta based flick finds emotionally troubled teen Alex (Gabrielle Haugh) caring for her dementia inflicted grandmother, Anna (Lin Shaye) in her old house. When she and boyfriend Miles (Grayson Gabriel) are poking around in the attic, they find what appears to be some sort of game. The Midnight Game involves inviting a malevolent spirit, known as The Midnight Man, into the house and then trying to evade him until 3:33 AM. If you do, you win. If you don’t…he claims you. Not taking it seriously, Alex and Miles begin to play not realizing the game is all too real…and so is The Midnight Man!

While yet another urban legend/boogeyman flick, Midnight Man is elevated by the presences of horror vets Robert Englund, as Anna’s old friend and physician Dr. Goodberry and Lin Shaye. It’s also well directed by Travis Z (Travis Zariwny) who wrote the script based on a screenplay by Rob Kennedy, from Kennedy’s own 2013 film about this creepypasta urban legend. Despite a fairly routine story, the film is atmospheric and entertaining and has a very effective visual style. Travis Z may not have concocted the most original film, but he still redeems himself here after the awful Cabin Fever remake, with some solid and spooky direction. It’s not perfect. The film’s boogeyman isn’t really all that scary, though Lin Shaye’s disturbing portrayal of Anna certainly makes up for it, and the characters seem willing to believe the game is real a little too quickly. Overall, though, what could have been another cookie cutter teen-centric horror, stands out a bit from the pack with some atmospheric direction from Travis Z, some generous blood and gore and the good use of two horror icons to support the young cast. Also stars Emily Haine as Alex’s friend Kelly who joins in on the game and has one of the spookier sequences.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JAN. 19-21

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to the reviews here at The Movie Madhouse!)

1. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” $20 Million

2. “12 Strong” $16.5 Million

3. “Den of Thieves” $15.3 Million

4. “The Post” $12.1 Million

5. “The Greatest Showman” $11 Million

6. “Paddington 2” $8.2 Million

7. “The Commuter” $6.7 Million

8. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” $6.6 Million

9. “Insidious: The Last Key” $5.9 Million

10. “Forever My Girl” $4.7 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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BARE BONES: HEARTTHROB (2017)

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HEARTTHROB (2017)

Pretty high school grad Sam (Aubrey Peebles) is struggling with her father’s suicide and using the affections of some of the local boys to ease her pain. She runs into high school valedictorian Henry (It Follows’ Keir Gilchrist) and the mismatched pair start dating. Sam puts aside her promiscuous ways for the charming science nerd, but is unaware that Henry is becoming obsessive and has a jealous side which could turn dangerous…or even deadly…when provoked.

Indie romance/thriller is written and directed with a nice low key style by Chris Silvertson. The film both charms us with the teen romance and chills us when Henry starts stalking his own girlfriend. It works because it starts us off with a cute romance between the two troubled teens and then suddenly gets disturbing when Henry starts to listen in on Sam’s cellphone conversations and decides to literally eliminate his competition. By getting us emotionally invested in their relationship before letting us know Henry is wound a bit too tight, it makes his actions all the more unnerving. Sure there are some elements that don’t quite mesh, like one of Sam’s former teachers (Peter Facinelli) also showing possible interest and the cops never questioning Henry, despite witnesses putting him in crucial places. But overall it works, there are good performances from it’s cast and it combines both tragic romance and disturbing thriller effectively. Also stars Ione Skye (Say Anything) as Sam’s mom.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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