BARE BONES: PREDATORS (2010)

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PREDATORS (2010)

Second direct Predator sequel finds an assorted group of mercenaries, gangsters and killers (Adrian Brody, Danny Trejo and Alice Braga to name a few) kidnapped from Earth and dropped on a remote planet. There the group are hunted for sport by a group of familiar looking alien creatures.

Directed by Nimród Antal from a script by Alex Litvak and Michael Finch, flick gets a lot right, far more then those AVP movies, but also falters in a few places that keep it from being the great movie Predator fans were hoping for. Returning to the jungle is fine, as is sending in another collection of badasses to challenge the hunting skills of the title creatures. The first half of the film is good, as is the cast and characters. It’s the middle of the film where the trouble begins when the film slows down for the scenes with Laurence Fishburn. These sequences serve only for exposition and really aren’t needed. It stops the film dead. The flick starts to pick up speed again, but only to deliver a climax far too derivative of the original and far too open ended to really satisfy. It works fine enough to an extent, but we’ve seen it all before. So far, Predators is the best of the sequels up to this point and a step in the right direction for those who haven’t tired of this series. There is a lot of action and an interesting plot element that there is more than one type of Predator and they don’t all get along. Entertaining if you don’t expect something that measures up too close to the Arnie original.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: MANDY (2018)

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MANDY (2018)

Mandy is a surreal and over-the-top revenge story from director Panos Cosmatos and starring Nicolas Cage, who is no stranger to over-the-top. The story is set in 1983 and finds logger Red (Cage) living in peaceful harmony with his artist/lover Mandy (Andrea Riseborough), in a secluded cabin in the woods. One night they are besieged by a group of apocalyptic bikers, who brutalize Red and abduct Mandy by order of Children of the New Dawn cult leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache). When Mandy rejects the deranged Jeremiah, he and his people burn her alive right before Red’s eyes. Red frees himself, forges a weapon of vengeance that would make a Klingon cry tears of joy and tracks down biker and cultist alike for bloody revenge.

Cosmatos directs this wild film, from a script by he and Aaron Stewart-Ahn, with such a surreal touch that it almost feels like it’s set on another world…and maybe it is. It’s like Last House on the Left meets Phanstasm, with a lot of other movies mixed in, as Red uses bow, arrow, chainsaw and his axe of vengeance to slice and dice his way to Jeremiah. It’s not an easy path to revenge and Red earns his scars, but he gives as good as he gets and better. It’s weirdly atmospheric, delightfully unhinged, giddily gory and we get the Nicholas Cage we came for. It’s also has some stunning cinematography by Benjamin Loeb and an amazing 80s-esque score by Jóhann Jóhannsson, who passed away earlier this year. If there is one gripe, it’s that at 121 minutes, it is a bit too long for it’s own good and a few scenes…especially Jeremiah’s delirious pontificating…wear out their welcome before they are over. Otherwise this is an original and enjoyably out-there tale of bloody revenge with some vicious and brutal action scenes.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: BLOOD FEST (2018)

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BLOOD FEST (2018)

Horror fan Dax (Robbie Kay) is excited to go the the ultimate horror movie festival, “Blood Fest” with his friends Krill (Jacob Batalon) and Sam (Seychelle Gabriel). However, his psychologist father (Tate Donovan) protests all things horror due to the murder of Dax’s mother by one of his patients years ago. His father forbids him to go, but Dax goes anyway only to find the horrors of Blood Fest are very real.

Horror/comedy is written and directed by Owen Egerton (Follow) and has a severe case of The Cabin In The Woods envy. Much like that film, the horror homages fly fast and furious while a bunch of nerds watch and manipulate from behind computer consoles. It still has it’s heart in the right place, even if Egerton hasn’t come up with the most original idea, unlike his twisted and disturbing Follow. The cast are very charming, especially Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Batalon and feisty Seychelle Gabriel, who steals the flick from leading man Kay. There is some nice gore and some cool fiends…mainly zombies, vampires and clowns…to harass our characters and it’s amusing enough even if it’s big reveal is no surprise and the film is quite derivative of things seen before. Also stars Barbara Dunkelman as a wannabe actress trapped inside with our heroes and a cameo by Zachary Levi.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: MARA (2018)

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MARA (2018)

Police psychologist Kate (Olga Kurylenko) is trying to determine if a woman named Helena (Rosie Fellner) brutally murdered her husband in their own bed. Helena claims her husband was being stalked by a demonic entity, but police detective McCarthy (Lance E. Nichols) thinks she should be locked up one way of the other. Kate’s investigation starts to reveal a series of similar deaths that may be linked to a sleep demon called Mara (Javier Botet) and worse yet…Kate might be next.

Very similar to the 2016 Dead Awake with Jocelin Donahue, which also involved sleep paralysis and a dream stalker, but this flick does right a lot of what that movie did wrong. Mara is a good example of how a skilled director, in this case Clive Tonge, can take very familiar story elements and make an entertaining and effective movie out of them. Jonathan Frank’s script offers nothing we haven’t seen before in films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Mama (ironically also played by Javier Botet), but the film is atmospheric and gives us some nice chills thanks to Tonge’s good use of these familiar dream demon tropes. Olga Kurylenko portrays a strong and likeable heroine to emotionally invest us and there is also a sympathetic turn by Doomsday’s Craig Conway as a war vet who’s crossed paths with Mara and is desperately wanting to be believed. Mara herself is a bit of a routine boogie man (boogie woman?), but she is utilized well enough. There is nothing new or inventive here, but there is some effective direction and good performances to turn the familiar into spooky entertainment.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: COLD SKIN (2017)

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BARE BONES: COLD SKIN (2017)

Period piece is set in 1914 with a young man named Friend (David Oakes) traveling to a secluded island as a Weather Official. There he finds the man he’s replacing is missing and cantankerous lighthouse keeper Gruner (Ray Stevenson) has fortified the lighthouse against something he won’t speak of. Soon Friend finds out that he and Gruner are not alone, as the surrounding waters are home to a society of aquatic humanoids that aren’t happy about the island’s human occupants.

Flick is atmospherically directed by Xavier Gens (Frontier(s),The Divide) and is a Lovecraftian tale of man against monster…or so we first believe. The script by Jesús Olmo and Eron Sheean hints that these creatures are quite intelligent, though and may simply be acting in self defense, as Gruner hasn’t been exactly treating them nicely. There is a lot of action, fierce battles and plenty of bloodshed as Gruner and Friend fend off their attackers. As with many flicks of this type, we soon begin to question just who are the bad guys and who are the victims. Gens proves again he has a solid visual style and delivers an old fashioned and entertaining tale of man discovering things yet undreamt of. Also stars Aura Garrido as a female creature that Gruner has captured and been mistreating in some questionable ways.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: CRAZY RICH ASIANS (2018)

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CRAZY RICH ASIANS (2018)

Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is a woman from humble beginnings who is now a college professor and has a handsome boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding). When Nick needs to return home to Singapore to be the best man at a friend’s wedding, Rachel finds out his family is “crazy” rich and Nick is heir to an empire. Worst still, Rachel feels that his wealthy family may not accept her…and they don’t. But Rachel is in love and determined to win them over whether they like it or not.

It’s been twenty-five years since 1993’s The Joy Luck Club that Hollywood produced a film that was steeped in Asian culture and featured Asian talent in front of and behind the camera. Crazy Rich Asians is based on Kevin Kwan’s book, which has been adapted by Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim and very well directed by Jon M. Chu. At it’s heart it’s still a fairly routine romantic comedy/ drama, the kind we’ve seen many times before. What elevates it, aside from the abundant Asian culture, is a strong and witty script and a wonderful cast. From the legendary Michelle Yeoh, as Nick’s mother, to Constance Wu’s strong-willed Rachel…not to mention a scene stealing Awkwafina…we are given a cast of three dimensional characters to inhabit this familiar and oft told story. Sure it’s predictable, but it presents some old clichés from a refreshing perspective that Hollywood hasn’t visited in quite some time.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE LAST SHARKNADO-IT’S ABOUT TIME (2018)

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THE LAST SHARKNADO: IT’S ABOUT TIME (2018)

Supposed last installment of this popular Asylum/SYFY series finds hero Fin (Ian Ziering) traveling back in time to destroy the first Sharknado and thus ending them for good. This leads Fin, April (Tara Reid), Nova (Cassie Scerbo) and a host of guest appearances and return characters battling Sharknados through a variety of time periods.

Franchise director Anthony C. Ferrante returns to helm this final chapter though the script is from Scotty Mullen, without series writer Thunder Levin. It’s still about as ridiculous as one would expect from a series that has prided itself on being as ridiculous as possible. To criticize it for it’s absurdity would be absurd in itself as, at this point, you should know what you’re getting into. Taken for what it is, it’s a fun ride through time and and the cast still find a way to keep a straight face while the CGI FX seem to actually be getting worse. It is a fitting finale to a series that continually upped the lunacy ante, while at the same time also knows when to call it quits. Now that Fin has put down his chainsaw, hopefully we get a Nova (Cassie Scerbo) spin-off!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: PUPPET MASTER-THE LITTLEST REICH (2018)

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PUPPET MASTER-THE LITTLEST REICH (2018)

After a brief opening that takes place in the 80s, the film jumps to present day where there is a convention being held to commemorate the Toulon puppet murders from three decades previous. There are going to be some replica puppets given away and a tour of Toulon’s mansion. Comic artist Edgar (Thomas Lennon) and his hot girlfriend Ashley (Jenny Pellicer) are there to attend and soon find the puppets present are the real thing and Toulon (Udo Kier) is not done with his reign of terror, even from beyond the grave.

Reboot is directed by Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund who gave us the derivative but entertaining Blood Runs Cold and Wither. They direct from a script by S. Craig Zahler based on the characters created by Charles Band and Kenneth J. Hall. One would probably have to be a fan of the original series to appreciate this dull reboot. If not, it’s just a series of gruesome murders of various puppet fodder characters, that has only some well executed practical gore effects to hold one’s interest. It’s just a random series of killings with no real plot other than to see toys kill people leading up to a Sharknado-esque finale. The tone of the flick goes from silly to trying to take itself seriously and if puppets, blood and boobs are all you came for, than it does at least deliver that…though still lacks the goofy charm of the original movie. Also stars genre favorites Barbara Crampton, Michael Paré and Matthias Hues.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: ACTION POINT (2018)

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ACTION POINT (2018)

Comedy opens with grandpa D.C. (Johnny Knoxville) babysitting his granddaughter and telling her about her mother’s (Eleanor Worthington-Cox as a teen, Susan Yeagley as an adult) childhood at D.C.’s once owned theme park. We flashback to Action Point which was a rundown, decrepit excuse for a park where anything could happen at anytime and often did. It was run by a group of misfits lead by D.C. and was the bane of existence for a group of local developers who wanted the land. Something D.C. would have to fight from letting them have.

Film is directed by Tim Kirkby from a script and story by five people including star Knoxville. It’s supposedly based on New Jersey’s real life Action Park where six people were killed on the rides over the span of it’s almost two decades of operation. It’s a routine raunchy comedy and tries to use the Jackass style of physical stunts and pratfalls that Knoxville and co-star Chris Pontius are known for. Their extreme slapstick style of comedy works in the mockumentary format it’s usually presented in, but not here when forced into an actual movie story-line. Now instead of hysterically idiotic buffoonery, it just comes across as poor stunt work. The film itself has some funny bits, but overall, is very by-the-numbers as these crude types of comedies go, with the usual haves vs the have-nots plot. That and Knoxville’s obnoxious jerk act is getting very tiresome at this point and his Jackass teammates are sorely missed. Stick with Bad Grandpa if you need a little story with your Jackasses.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE ROW (2018)

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THE ROW (2018)

Flick has new sorority member Riley (Lala Kent) finding out her deceased mother and cop father (Randy Couture) have been keeping secrets from her. Her mother was also a member of that same sorority and she was involved in a hazing incident which caused the suicide of another girl. Now Riley is being stalked by a killer and her father races against time to find out who bears a grudge against his daughter and her sorority sisters and does Riley’s mother’s past misdeeds have something to do with it.

Sorority slasher is directed by Matty Beckerman from a script by Sarah Scougal. It tries hard enough delivering the scantily clad co-eds and a few bloody killings, but is held back by two major problems. One, when a low budget flick like this gets a name in the cast, such as MMA star turned actor Randy Couture, they want to make as much use of that name as possible. So a lot of the focus is on maverick cop Couture, which leaves far less time to develop the character of our leading lady, Riley and the elements and backstory crucial to it’s plot. The second problem is we have another example of a director trying to show you all the cool, gee-whiz, digital editing effects he learned in film school and it’s distracting and doesn’t serve the plot. Slow mo’s, speed ups and color filters are all thrown at us randomly and they serve no purpose in relation to what’s going on. It’s annoying. You went to film school. We get it, get over it. Overall, it’s not a terrible flick, it’s just that it’s not a terribly good one either.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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