BARE BONES: APRIL FOOL’S DAY (2008)

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APRIL FOOL’S DAY (2008)

Flick is a remake in name and date only. A fancy mansion party is being hosted by siblings Desiree and Blaine Cartier (Taylor Cole and Josh Henderson) on April 1st, 2007. April Fools jokes abound and one joke goes too far, with pretty Milan Hastings (Sabrina Ann Aldridge) falling to her death, after a drug induced seizure. A year later, Desiree, Blaine and some of their friends who were there, get ominous letters from MIlan proclaiming she was murdered and her killer needs to come forward, or they all will die. Soon, one by one, they are being done in.

Flick is directed by The Butcher Brothers (Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores) from a script they wrote with Mikey Wigart. It is a dreadfully slow paced and uneventful slasher, which is surprising coming from the makers of the inventive vampire flicks The Hamiltons and The Thompsons. The flick is simply dull and tedious and even the cast, including scream queen Scout Taylor-Compton, fail to generate any interest in their shallow, upper-society characters. In fact the characters are so boring, you want the killer to succeed, but even the deaths are dull. As for the big reveal…you can see it coming a mile away. Flick was released straight to DVD where it quickly and deservedly faded into obscurity.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: RADIOFLASH (2019)

 

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RADIOFLASH (2019)

Radioflash is another term for an EMP…electromagnetic pulse…an event which begins our story. When the power is knocked out, civilized behavior quickly becomes fear and panic and survivalist Frank (Will Patton) begs his teen granddaughter Reese (Brighton Sharbino) and her father Chris (Dominic Monaghan) to join him in the safety of his secluded house, deep in the mountains. The trip is treacherous and an unfortunate series of events finds Reese all alone. As the young girl runs afoul of murderous looters and a strange backwoods, mountain family, her concerned grandfather sets out to track his loved ones down.

Survival drama is directed by Ben McPherson from a script by he and Matt Redhawk. It’s a somber and low key film about a young girl trying to survive two harsh worlds, one created by a catastrophic event and the other that may have always been there. It’s well done and somewhat involving, but never really grabs us, or seems to really go anywhere. It’s refreshing to not have zombies or fetishistic biker gangs, in this kind of scenario, but it could have used a little more dramatic weight. It’s a little too laid back for it’s own good. Both the selfishness of people in panic and the weird rural mountain folk are both familiar elements at this point, but still work in the context of the story. It’s a bit questionable, though, that cellphones and laptops would still work after the EMP. Brighton Sharbino does make for a likable heroine, as the resourceful Reese and Fionnula Flanagan, Michael Filipowich and Kyle Collin are effective as the mountain clan that want to make Reese one of their own…whether she likes it or not. Well directed, but could have used a bit more intensity.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: BLOODSHOT (2020)

 

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BLOODSHOT (2020)

Comic book based superhero flick finds soldier Ray Garrison (Vin Diesal), murdered and his wife (Talulah Riley) killed by a vengeful terrorist (Toby Kebbell). They can rebuild him, they have the technology! Ray is brought back to life by Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce) and made better, stronger, faster…you get the idea. Nanite technology almost instantly heals his wounds and his mind is now a supercomputer. Problem is, Harting is actually using Ray as an assassin, recreating the murder of Ray’s wife, over and over, with the face of each intended target, under the deception of returning memories. Suffice to say Ray isn’t going to be happy when he finds out…which he does.

Flick is directed by David S. F. Wilson from a script by Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer, based on the Valiant Comic. As such, it’s a very routine and by-the-numbers superhero/action flick. The FX are good and there is plenty of action, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, or presented in a way that makes it fresh. Diesel is a solid enough action hero, though even he seems to be going through the numbers here. At least it does liven up a bit for it’s free-for-all climax. Also stars Eiza González, Sam Heughan and Alex Hernandez as KT, Dalton and Tibbs, three other ex-soldiers enhanced by Harting’s Rising Spirit Tech and Wilfred Wigans as a computer genius, who helps Ray find the truth and get revenge. Not terrible, but not terribly special either.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: UNDERWATER (2020)

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UNDERWATER (2020)

Over six miles beneath the ocean surface, the Kepler drilling station suffers a massive, crippling earthquake (or is it?). Five survivors, including mechanical engineer Norah Price (Kristen Stewart), Captain Lucien (Vincent Cassel) and crewmembers Emily (Jessica Henwick), Paul (T.J. Miller) and Liam (John Gallagher Jr), have no choice but to walk across the ocean floor in high pressure suits to another station. Something, however, is down there with them and is now hunting them, as they make a desperate attempt to get out of this catastrophe alive. Did the drilling station awaken something best left undiscovered?

Undersea horror is competently directed by William Eubank from an Alien-esque script by Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad. It’s a routine and derivative monster movie, but that’s not overwhelmingly a bad thing. The movie gets to the action quickly, with the quake hitting almost instantly, though this gives us no time for character or story development. We do learn a little about our characters as we go along, at least the ones that stick around and the cast are good, with Stewart making a solid heroine as Norah. We also learn, a la Alien, that the drilling company might have known something was amiss, but proceeded anyway. No surprise there. As for the horror, there is some suspense and a few spooky sequences, though those looking for a gory monster mash will be a bit disappointed, as the film is strictly PG-13. The creatures are kinda cool and wisely kept in shadows till the last act and are more H.P. Lovecraft than H. R. Giger in appearance. It has an effective and creepy climax, which might leave one with a few chills. On a production level, the flick moves at a decent pace and is economical at only 95 minutes long. The FX are well done, with most of the film’s $50+ Million budget on screen and it all looks good through Eubank’s visual eye. Underwater was a box office bomb when released in January, but, overall, is an enjoyable, if not familiar and forgettable monster movie.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE HUNT (2020)

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THE HUNT (2020)

Flick is yet another version of the the tired ‘rich people hunting poor people’ scenario. Here a group of elitist, extreme left rich folks bring a group of low income, right wing captives to an area of Croatia to be hunted for sport. A case of mistaken identity amongst their specifically chosen targets lands ex-soldier Crystal (Betty Gilpin) in their midst and she has no plans to die easily.

Flick gained some attention after being delayed from it’s September 2019 release date due to some real-life shootings at the time. Now having seen the film, it seems more like a publicity stunt to give some notoriety to this turkey. The flick is badly directed by Craig Zobel (the far better Compliance) from an awful script by Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse. The makers give no credit to it’s audience for having any intelligence and the film stops dead, so characters can recite the film’s political and social commentary right at you. It’s so heavy-handed and obvious that midway through it starts to give you a headache. It would seem like the script writers had no faith in their own story to relay it’s messages…about race, immigration, the division between rich and poor…so they literally throw it in your face every chance they get. Having the rich a-holes being extreme leftists this time and their quarry being right wing “rednecks” does not cleverness make and the attempts at humor and satire fall flat most of the time, as well. Gilpin (Glow) does the best she can with what she’s given to work with and if there are any points to give here, her climactic fight with Hilary Swank’s villainous Athena, is fun to watch. The reveals during this last act confrontation, however, aren’t as big a deal as the film wants us to think they are. We’ve been force fed so much already, we simply don’t care at this point. Avoid unless you are too curious to save yourself money and 90 minutes of your time. Definitely a candidate for worst film of the year

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: LITTLE MONSTERS (2019)

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LITTLE MONSTERS (2019)

Zombie romantic comedy finds slacker, musician Dave (Alexander England) newly single and sleeping on sister Tess’ (Kat Stewart) couch, while being a bad influence on her little boy Felix (Diesel La Torraca). When forced to take Felix to school one day, he meets his pretty kindergarden teacher Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o from Black Panther and Us). Dave falls for her and agrees to chaperone a class trip to a local farm to get closer to her. This farm is next to a U.S. military installation and one of the experiments being conducted there gets out of control. This unleashes a horde of flesh-eating zombies on the park, soon after the kids arrive. Now Dave, Miss Caroline, the kids and annoying children’s show host Teddy McGiggles (Josh Gad, the voice of Frozen’s Olaf) are trapped inside the gift shop with the hungry zombies waiting outside.

Flick is written and directed by Abe Forsythe and is a cute movie. There is some gory violence, but mostly the flick focuses on Dave learning to be an adult and shy Felix learning to be a hero. Obviously romance brews between Dave and Miss Caroline, as the zombie horde lurks outside and the oblivious military plan to destroy the entire area. It’s entertaining, though there is a lot more character interaction than zombie action and some of the bits are very cliché, such as lovable TV host McGiggles revealing he actually hates kids and is a selfish, sex addicted jerk. There is a late gimmick where the zombies responded to Miss Caroline’s singing, but it goes nowhere and never actually serves the plot. Overall, it an amusing flick with a charming cast of adults and kids, though one that drags a bit in the middle. For zombie film fans, be warned, the zombies are only a catalyst to force the adult characters together to bare their souls and learn the appropriate lessons about love, responsibility and self worth. Don’t look for too much snacking. For those looking for something horror lite, this will do fine.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: MALEFICENT-MISTRESS OF EVIL (2019)

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MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL (2019)

Sequel to the 2014 film about one of Disney’s greatest villainesses finds Aurora (Elle Fanning) getting engaged to handsome Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) and her godmother Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) having none of it. Unknown to both Aurora and Maleficent, it’s all a ruse by Phillip’s mother, the scheming Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), to not only be rid of Maleficent, but all the creatures of fairy. Framed for bewitching the king and wounded, Maleficent is found by others of her kind and taken to their secret island hideaway. As she heals her wounds and gets to know her people, she plans to stop Ingrith and save the creatures of fae with her new army at her side.

Sequel is directed by Joachim Rønning (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) from a script by Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Linda Woolverton and Noah Harpster. It’s unremarkable story-wise and fairly by-the-numbers in execution, but does at least have a lot of fantasy images and creatures to keep one’s attention. There is also a fair share of action and an epic battle at it’s climax, with both Jolie and Pfeiffer chewing up the scenery appropriately. Maleficent is never actually evil at any point in the film…pissed off, yes, but evil, no…so the title is a bit misleading, unless it actually refers to Pfeiffer’s Queen Ingrith, who is the far more sinister of the two. Maybe Maleficent: The Pissed Off Anti-Hero was too awkward a title for the Disney promotional department. The film is competently made and colorful enough to be an amusing night on the couch, especially for it’s target audience, but a forgettable fantasy, overall. Strengths and weaknesses aside, the biggest disappointment here is in not letting Jolie really cut loose in a role she was born to play.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: JUMANJI-THE NEXT LEVEL (2019)

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JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL (2019)

Sequel to the sequel/reboot of the 1995 book based flick finds Spencer (Alex Wolff) returning to Jumanji, because there he felt like a hero. Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) and Martha (Morgan Turner) follow him in and inadvertently take Spencer’s grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito) and Eddie’s friend Milo (Danny Glover) along with them. Meanwhile Bethany (Madison Iseman from Annabelle Comes Home) seeks help from Alex to help rescue her friends. Once inside, they find Jumanji once again in peril, this time from Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann). Also creating distress is that avatars have become mixed up and Eddie is now Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Milo is Mouse (Kevin Hart) Fridge is Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black) with Bethany becoming a winged horse and Spencer becoming thief Ming Fleetfoot (Awkwafina). Martha is still Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), however, and Alex is still Jefferson “Seaplane” McDonough (Nick Jonas). The group must again save Jumanji, somehow get their avatars straightened out and maybe get back home again.

Film is again directed by Jake Kasdan from a script by himself, Jeff Pinker and Scott Rosenberg. While not quite as lively as the last film, it’s still mindless and harmless fun. There is plenty of action and exotic settings, though does replay a lot of the gags from the Welcome To The Jungle. The cast are again having fun, especially Johnson and Hart, who get to play different characters whom their video game alter egos are representing. Johnson is fun echoing Danny DeVito, though Kevin Hart really steals the flick with his dead-on impression of Danny Glover. He’s hilarious. New addition Awkwafina is also fun as Spencer’s avatar Ming and when the gang gets their avatars realigned, she gets to have fun mimicking DeVito in the film’s second half. McCann makes a functional yet generic villain and it’s once again the character interaction that really makes it so enjoyable. Entertaining enough with a solid cast that overcomes a fairly pedestrian script.
-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: KNIVES OUT (2019)

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KNIVES OUT (2019)

Flick finds best selling mystery writer and millionaire, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) dead with his throat cut. It’s ruled a suicide, but an anonymous someone has hired private detective Benoit Blanc (a wonderful Daniel Craig) to take on the case. Blanc finds the game is afoot with a family cut out of Harlan’s will at his 85th birthday the night of his death and his personal care nurse Marta (Ana de Armas) now the sole inheritor of his fortune and assets. With a house filled with those who would benefit from Harlan’s demise, can the unwelcome detective unravel the tangled web that has been woven.

Written and directed by Rian Johnson (Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) this is a near perfect flick. It’s a delightfully old fashioned murder(?) mystery with a dozen or so suspects, all with a motive, and an intricately woven plot that our detective must unravel. It’s easy to follow, but like Craig’s Blanc we must find and interpret the clues, while the web keeps getting more and more complex around him…and us. The film has a darkly comic tone, which suits the story perfectly and an absolutely fabulous cast to play our suspects including, de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson and Toni Collette, not to forget the legendary Christopher Plummer as Harlan. It keeps you guessing and smiling, never confuses you, but doesn’t make it easy for you either. When the time comes, there are some fun surprises and reveals and you also realize that for the last two hours you’ve been spectacularly entertained. A near perfect movie that has a perfect cast. Also stars Katherine Langford, Lakeith Stanfield and Noah Segan.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: GUNS AKIMBO (2020)

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GUNS AKIMBO (2020)

Computer programmer Miles Lee Harris (Daniel Radcliffe) is having a very bad day. He’s broken up with his comic book artist girlfriend, Nova (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) and picked a fight with the wrong website. Miles decides to have a little fun on the website for Skizm, a live action fight club where they pit various psychopaths against each other in real life battles to the death. When he trolls the site, he finds himself knocked out by a gang of thugs and wakes up the next morning with guns bolted to his hands. The man who runs Skizm, Riktor (Ned Dennehy) informs the mild-mannered Miles that he has 24 hours to kill Skizm’s leading psycho killer Nix (Samara Weaving) or he and the kidnapped Nova will die…all part of Skizm’s latest webisode!

Flick is written and directed by Jason Lei Howden (Deathgasm) and seems more attuned to today’s gaming and web-centric audience. They would probably appreciate more all the gaming nods and references, though it’s still fun as a humor-laced, action/comedy for the pre-Xbox, pre-Youtube set, too. It has plenty of violence, action and bloodshed, as poor wimpy Miles is trying just to stay alive, much less kill his overzealous opponent. He is both cheered and booed by the audience streaming it all, as the online veiwwership takes either the side of the hapless nerd, now nicknamed Guns Akimbo, or the blood-thirsty Nix. Radcliffe is well cast as the nerdy, terrified Miles, as is Samara Weaving who is delightfully over-the-top as the tattooed, weapons loving Nix. She’s become quite the fixture in bonkers flicks like this, Mayhem and Ready or Not that delight in mixing extreme violence with a twisted sense of humor. It’s no spoiler that at some point Nix and Miles will find common ground to take on the bad guys in an amusing blood bath of a finale. Not quite as consistently fun or funny as Howden’s Death Metalheads vs zombies flick Deathgasm, but colorful and blood-spattered enough to amuse for it’s economical 95 minute length.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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