BARE BONES: PERSONAL SHOPPER (2016)

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PERSONAL SHOPPER (2016)

French thriller tells the story of Maureen (Kristen Stewart) who is a personal shopper for bitchy celebrity Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten) …and a paranormal medium. She’s also in Paris to try to make contact with the spirit of her twin brother, who recently died in his home there. On top of all, that she is receiving ominous texts from an unknown source who seems to be stalking her. Still with me?

Despite not knowing what it wants to be about, the film is well directed by Olivier Assayas from his own script. It manages to provide some very spooky moments when dealing with the paranormal issues and some taunt suspense when dealing with the ominous texts Maureen keeps receiving from the unknown sender. The personal shopper drama is also well done though the least interesting part of the film. Assayas also gets good work out of Kristen Stewart whose disassociated style of acting works perfectly for the emotionally troubled Maureen. A few of the supernatural moments come close to tipping over into silly and the author of the mysterious texts wasn’t hard to figure out, but somehow despite, the multiple narrative, Personal Shopper does remain intriguing and sometimes very effective! Worth a look for something a bit offbeat.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: AFTERMATH (2017)

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AFTERMATH (2017)

Fact-based drama tells the story of construction foreman Roman (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who is devastated by the loss of his wife and pregnant daughter in a plane crash. Air traffic controller Jacob (Scoot McNairy) is blamed and the film plays out the two men’s dealing with their grief until the inevitable confrontation as Roman want’s some kind of reparation for his family.

Both Arnold and McNairy give strong performances here, despite that director Elliot Lester and writer Javier Gullón deliver a fairly mediocre and routine drama out of a real-life tragedy. The film is presented very by-the-numbers and stoops to numerous clichés, such as the airline executives being portrayed as stereotypical, soulless corporate bad guys. The moments that should provide the most emotional weight fail to deliver, despite the solid work by it’s cast. If not for Arnold delivering a performance on par with the 2015 Maggie and Scoot McNairy impressing as well, there really would be little to recommend, even with the story following a true 2002 mid-air collision and it’s tragic aftermath. Disappointing when one considers Arnold once again proves he can act and act well without spraying the screen with bullets. Also stars Maggie Grace as Jacob’s wife.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE GOOD NEIGHBOR (2016)

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THE GOOD NEIGHBOR (2016)

Thriller finds two youths, Ethan (Logan Miller) and Sean (It Follows’ Keir Gilchrist), performing an ‘experiment’ on their reclusive, grumpy old neighbor, Mr. Grainey (James Caan). They rig his house with camera’s and hack into his systems and record as they try to convince the old man his home is haunted. As the experiment progresses, not only do the boys start to believe their neighbor is harboring some dark secret, but the prank/experiment starts to become more and more mean-spirited as Ethan increasingly becomes obsessed with his cantankerous neighbor.

Film is well directed by Kasra Farahani from a script by Mark Bianculli and Jeff Richard. It uses the found footage format part of the time and then switches to real time as we find ourselves in a courtroom where we realize this ‘prank’ ended badly somehow. During the course of the film we slowly find out what happened in the house and we also get some interesting reveals about our subject, his tormentors and their motivations. Not all is as it seems and Farahani and the script slowly unveil, using the two boys’ footage, what these events led up to and use some well-placed flashbacks to let us know what really was Grainey’s ‘secret’. It’s moderately paced, which works for this type of film, and if the ending isn’t completely satisfying, it’s only because it’s more true to life than one might want to admit. A solid thriller that is spooky at times and tragic and sad at others.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: EVOLUTION (2015)

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EVOLUTION (2015)

Dreary and dull French flick has a group of young boys living on a secluded island with their mothers who are also nurses. They take the boys to a mysterious institute each day to be experimented on…and that’s kinda it, plot-wise.

Directed by Lucile Hadžihalilović from script by she and Alante Kavaite, this is a tedious affair. While it has atmosphere and there are some disturbing visuals, the film is short on exposition and explanation. It’s all very gloomy and mysterious, but with only vague hints at what is actually taking place and why, one looses patience and interest in this flick quickly. The cinematography by Manuel Dacosse was quite sumptuous as was Hadžihalilović’s shot framing, but ultimately it’s depressing and achieves only boredom. A little too artsy for it’s own good.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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BARE BONES: LAVENDER

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LAVENDER (2016)

Flick is a mystery thriller with a supernatural element as young wife and mother, Jane (Abbie Cornish) has been struggling all her life to remember the events from her childhood that took the lives of her parents and sister. A car accident gives her temporary amnesia and as her memories return, so she starts to remember things from that night 25 years ago. But something or someone is trying to help coax her memories back and whatever or whoever it is, it draws her to her childhood home for a confrontation with that dark event her mind has chosen to forget.

Film is stylishly directed by Ed Gass-Donnelly from a script by he and Colin Frizzell. It presents us with hints of what happened in it’s opening and then takes us 25 years into the present where Jane tries to remember the occurrence and it takes another traumatic event to start shaking the memories loose. As Jane begins her journey with her family in tow, we go along with her as she slowly puts the puzzle pieces together. There is also a bit of a supernatural twist, as though there is some force leading her in the directions she needs to go. It adds a spooky element to the film that works in it’s favor and keeps the audience a bit unsettled…in a good way. A strong performance by Cornish helps us like and root for Jane, too, even when we suspect she may have been somehow involved in the deaths. The supporting cast, Including Justin Long and Dermot Mulroney as her uncle, help keep the film involving as does the rural farm setting add atmosphere. The plot and resolution may not be entirely original, but it is engrossing and a bit spooky, too.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE DEAD ROOM (2015)

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THE DEAD ROOM (2015)

New Zealand haunted house flick is nothing new plot-wise as it features three paranormal investigators (Jed Brophy, Jeffrey Thomas and Laura Peterson) entering a recently vacated house to see if it’s as haunted as the owners claim. Obviously the answer is “yes” or we wouldn’t have a movie.

Film is directed well enough by Jason Stutter from a script by he and Kevin Stevens and while it presents nothing new, there is a charm about it’s old fashioned, CGI-less approach. The three leads are very likable as the stereotypical veteran ghost hunter (Brophy), skeptical scientist (Thomas) and pretty, goth psychic (Peterson), so we are willing to go along with their cliché and somewhat low-key ghost hunt. The film has a few spooky bits and while the last act does provide an intriguing twist, it also ends very abruptly and never gives us the backstory needed to clue us in as to who the spirits were and what had originally gone on in that house. It leaves one unsatisfied as the credits roll, despite having been somewhat entertained by the flick’s laid back style. Currently on Netflix Streaming, so it’s worth a peek if you’ve got nothing else to watch.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: DON’T KILL IT and DARK FOREST

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DON’T KILL IT (2016)

Horror/comedy follows the exploits of demon hunter Jebediah Woodley (Dolph Lundgren) as he hunts a nasty body hopping demon in a small town. The demon’s murderous activities attracts the attention of the FBI and now Woodley is forced to team with sexy FBI agent Evelyn Pierce (Kristina Klebe from RZ’s Halloween and Tales Of Halloween) to hunt it down…if he can convince her it really exists and he’s not crazy.

Goofy, fun and delightfully over-the-top gory, flick is directed in Sharknado style by Mike Mendez from a script by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen. Sure it’s silly and never scary for a minute, but the cast seem to be having a good time and Mendez brings his energetic and humor filled style to the proceedings such as he did with Gravedancers and Big Ass Spider. Mendez can take the most ridiculous of premises and just run with it and this flick is no different. Lundgren plays it straight, as does Klebe who proves once again she can pull double duty as leading lady and action hero. Goofy, harmless and blood-spattered fun.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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DARK FOREST (2015)

Slasher homage finds four gal pals, Emily (Laurel McArthur), Michelle (Veronica Ternopolski), Francine (Jalin Desloges) and Jolene (Weronika Sokalska) all heading into the woods for a girls camping trip. Unknown to them, they are being followed by Peter (Dennis Scullard), Emily’s psychotic boyfriend who wants revenge for being defied and embarrassed by the four party girls. As our unsuspecting hotties enjoy their trip, Peter cuts a bloody path of pursuit into the woods leaving a trail of bodies behind him.

Flick written and directed in 80s slasher style by Roger Boyer may be a bit amateurish at times, but has it’s bloody heart in the right place. Boyer may not conjure any real scares, but the film does have a strong 80s slasher vibe, including 80s style soundtrack and gives us some abundant gore and an equally abundant cast of hotties, much like the horrors of that era did. Our four leading ladies are actually quite fine in their roles and are very likable characters to root/fear for while Scullard does make a creepy killer. Boyer’s slasher may be short on story, but at 75 minutes, the flick is kept short and sweet and doesn’t wear out it’s welcome. Sure there are some editing weaknesses and the film looks very low budget, but these are things a filmmaker can overcome with experience and low budget horror is where the heart and soul of the genre resides anyway. A nice effort that pays respectful tribute to it’s influences.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: COLLIDE

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COLLIDE (2016)

Noisy and dull action flick has Casey (Nicholas Hoult) quitting his job working for a drug dealer named Geran (Ben Kingsley) when he meets and falls for the beautiful Julliette (Felicity Jones). But when his new love needs a new kidney, Casey goes back to work and runs afoul of Geran’s rival, powerful drug lord Hagen (Anthony Hopkins). Still with me?

Boring action flick is directed by Eran Creevy from a script by he and F. Scott Frazier. Despite a good cast and a lot of fast paced car chases, the flick can’t generate much interest thanks to a weak script, too hip for it’s own good direction and more clichés than you can drive a Ferrari through. The filmmakers are more concerned with headache inducing camerawork and an obnoxiously loud soundtrack than with reigning in their actors, such as the shamelessly over-the-top Kingsley. The flick was barely interesting enough to keep one’s attention despite all the noise and wastes the new star power of Rogue One’s Felicity Jones by giving her scant little to do.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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BARE BONES: VOODOO and SHUT IN

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VOODOO (2017)

This is a terrible found footage flick that has a young woman (Samantha Stewart) traveling to L.A. from her home of New Orleans after an affair with a married man provokes his voodoo practicing wife. She’s filming her trip, hence the found footage format and her footage catches the escalating pursuit by evil spirits till she is literally dragged to Hell…camera still filming, of course!

Flick is awfully written and directed by Tom Costabile and the only reason it gets the extra star is for having the audacity of being the first…at least I think so…found footage movie to take place in Hell. It is laughably bad for the most part, though it’s depiction of Hell does hit Baskin levels of offensiveness with newborn babies being eaten alive and our heroine being raped by Satan himself…or one of his muscular horned demons, I can’t really tell. It’s disturbingly graphic, though wears out it’s welcome quickly, but in terms of legitimate chills and thrills, it’s completely void and Costabile seems to know little or nothing about actual voodoo. At least pretty lead Samantha Stewart and co-star Ruth Reynolds were appealing.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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SHUT IN (2016)

Moderately amusing thriller has widowed child psychologist Mary (Naomi Watts) caring for her catatonic 18 year-old step-son (Charlie Heaton) after an accident that also claimed her husband’s life. At the same time, she is concerned about a young patient of hers (Room’s Jacob Tremblay) that has run away into the Maine woods with a massive snowstorm approaching rapidly. As the snowfall traps Mary in the house, she starts to feel there is something strange going on and soon believes she is possibly being haunted by the now feared dead boy’s spirit.

Flick written by Christina Hudson and directed by Farren Blackbum is a completely generic and routine thriller with Watt’s solid performance being the only thing that keeps us entertained. She is a veteran actress and handles the weak material well, adding some emotional depth to the mundane goings on and making Mary very sympathetic and likable. The big reveal isn’t exactly a surprise and actually adds a creepy and uncomfortable sexual element to the proceedings, though one the filmmakers aren’t daring enough to go too far with as they shift the focus off it rather quickly, returning to the safer stalking about a dark house finale. If nothing else is on, it’s not a complete waste of time and the 48 year-old Watts still looks quite fetching in the buff. Also stars Oliver Platt as a psychologist friend of Mary’s.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2014)

This version of the classic tale is from Brotherhood of the Wolf director Christophe Gans and is a sumptuous telling of the story. French film has a merchant (André Dussollier) escaping a band of ruffians and wandering through a snowstorm into the castle of The Beast (Vincent Cassel). The creature commands he must stay, but will allow him one night to say goodbye to his family. When he returns home and relates his tale, his youngest daughter Belle (Léa Seydoux) sneaks out and goes to the Beast’s castle and offers herself in her father’s stead. The Beast is enchanted with her and thus begins a relationship that turns from fear and defiance to love…a love that may be The Beast’s only hope of becoming the man he once was. But, there is trouble ahead for Beast and Belle as her brother Maxime (Nicholas Gob) has offered up the riches of Beast’s castle to the gang leader Perducas (Eduardo Noriega) as payment for his debts.

Directed from a script by he and Sandra Vo-Anh this is a visually spectacular interpretation of the classic story and has a much welcome dark edge to it. It is entertaining and only looses it’s grip somewhat in a very CGI heavy last act when Perducas and his thugs raid Beast’s castle and he defends it with colossal moving statues and the local flora and fauna and it gets a little overindulgent. Belle’s disdain turning to love also could have been handled better as it happens a bit too quick, though her dreams of how The Beast came to be are well done and very effective. The costumes and make-up are elegant and the sets and FX are top notch and the cast all seem to fit and play their roles well, especially Vincent Cassel, who plays beast and prince equally well and the enchanting Miss Seydoux as Belle. It may be a bit of a flawed telling, but still very enjoyable and if nothing else, a visual feast for the eyes.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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