BARE BONES: BAYWATCH (2017)

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BAYWATCH (2017)

Comedy based on the popular 80s TV show has lifeguard legend Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) dealing with a hot shot new recruit (Zac Efron) and a sexy female drug dealer (Priyanka Chopra), who is dealing a new drug on his beaches. Now Mitch has to make this bunch a team and protect the sands and waters of Emerald Bay.

Directed by Seth Gordon from a script by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, this flick has some laughs and there is some wit behind the raunchy banter, but it drowns in the clichés of the band of misfits investigating the big bad drug queen, when no one else thinks there is anything wrong plot. The film does resemble a TV show episode and is very predictable, though the cast seems to be having fun and can be quite charming. Too bad there wasn’t a better script to go along with the muscles, cleavage and original show cameos. Also stars Alexandra Daddario as another new recruit.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: PHOENIX FORGOTTEN and MONSTER X

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PHOENIX FORGOTTEN (2017)

Second “Phoenix Lights” based found footage flick has an engaging plot, but a lackluster execution. Here we have a young woman (Florence Hartigan) searching for her brother Josh who disappeared twenty years earlier. Josh (Luke Spencer Roberts) witnessed The Phoenix Lights Incident along with she and her family at her sixth birthday and disappeared soon after upon investigating it with friends. Now decades later, she investigates his vanishing with a documentary crew and finds something they may not escape from themselves.

Directed by Justin Barber from his script with T.S. Nowlin, this had promise, but sadly isn’t all that much better than the awful Phoenix Incident, which had, obviously, a lot of the same plot elements. It has a few moments and the characters are nowhere near as annoying as the ones in that other film, but this is still a rather dull movie with a lot of Blair Witch scene retreads and some stuff already covered in Oren Peli’s Area 51. Too bad that a real life incident that still has people talking can’t inspire a movie that is actually as spooky as what it’s based on.

-MonsterZero NJ

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MONSTER X (2017)

Anthology flick has an amusing concept. A guy (Matt Tatroe) takes a first date (Stephanie June) to an all night horror festival and as they watch, the movies seem to take life around them. Now the couple are on the run from zombies, vampires and werewolves.

Multiple directors (Patrick Rea, Sean van Leijenhorst, Daniel B. Iske and Jaysen P. Buterin) are listed for this flick which has it’s heart in the right place and earns points for taking place in an old style movie theater. The anthology segments…Banshee, Howl of a Good Time, Now That You’re Dead and Don’t Let The Light In…are amusing as is the framing segment, The Dead Hour, of our beleaguered couple trying to survive their first date. The individual segments do seem like short films that the anthology was built around, as the copyright’s for those segments vary and go back as far as 2008. This adds to the cleverness, as getting those short films seen as part of a multi-segment film is inventive thinking. Overall, it’s very low budget and a little amateurish in spots, but it’s intentions are well meant and there is credit for effort. Cute and fun little flick that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at only 70 minutes including credits.
Segments:
The Dead Hour– directed by Daniel B. Iske and written by Scott Coleman
Banshee– written and directed by Sean van Leijenhorst
Howl of a Good Time– written and directed by Patrick Rea
Now That You’re Dead– written and directed by Patrick Rea
Don’t Let The Light In– written and directed by Jaysen P. Buterin

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: THE MUMMY and SNATCHED

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THE MUMMY (2017)

Universal’s second attempt…Dracula Untold was the first, but they distanced themselves from it when it failed to draw box office blood… to start their Dark Universe is a bigger clunker than their Dracula flick. Convoluted plot has adventurer Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) finding the tomb of cursed Egyptian Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) who gets unleashed and now raises the dead across England as she tries to find both Morton…who she has plans for…and a sacred dagger…which she also has plans for. Also interested in the little mummy honey is a certain Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe)…who has his own plans for the Egyptian princess.

Directed by Alex Kurtzman from a messy script by three writers, the flick is a CGI drenched bore that won’t do Universal any favors in starting it’s Marvel-esque monster series. Cruise is strictly phoning it in and has far more screen time than the actually mummy whose schtick is basically rehashing the same gimmick from the Stephen Sommers movies, but with a girl mummy this time. It’s just plain silly to have Jekyll involved, though at least Crowe got the material and would probably be a fun Jekyll/Hyde in a much better movie. Boutella had a few effective scenes, but otherwise it’s a snoozefest of CGI and a very miscast TomCruise.

-MonsterZero NJ

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SNATCHED (2017)

The idea of teaming up comic legend Goldie Hawn and funny girl of the moment Amy Schumer wasn’t a bad one, it’s just too bad they weren’t in a much more solid comedy. Flick has recently dumped and fired Emily (Schumer) going on a vacation originally planned with her now ex-boyfriend. She takes her mom (Hawn) instead and the two head off to Ecuador. The mother and daughter are kidnapped by an Ecuadorian crime lord (Óscar Jaenada) and now must find a way to escape both the criminal and the jungle in one piece.

Directed by Jonathan Levine from a so-so script by Katie Dippold, this flick starts out funny when it is about mother and daughter trying to bond and get along at the resort. It takes a more serious and far less funny tone once they are kidnapped and then escape with the vengeful criminals hot on their heels. There are some deaths along the way, which the film unsuccessfully tries to make funny and the film only regains a little of it’s comic footing when Schumer’s Emily and some strange women (Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack) mount a half-assed rescue when Hawn is recaptured. Shame the script wasn’t funnier as Schumer and Hawn had a nice chemistry.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: FOLLOW (2015)

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FOLLOW (2015)

Offbeat and unsettling little flick has Quinn (Noah Segan) waking up a few days before Christmas and finding a gun in his hand, his girlfriend (Olivia Grace Applegate) dead and not remembering a thing. Quinn panics and as he tries to remember what happened, keeps the body hidden and doesn’t call authorities. Adding fuel to the fire, his cute co-worker with a crush, Viv (Haley Lu Richardson) comes to the house looking for him when he doesn’t show up for work…and finds the corpse. Now Quinn’s life starts to really spin out of control with a dead girl upstairs and and a live witness held captive in the cellar.

Written and directed by Owen Egerton, this is an interesting and twisted little movie. Quinn starts to slowly lose his mind and make increasingly bad decisions upon finding the death obsessed Thana (Applegate) actually dead after some unsettling foreplay with a gun the night before. We are along for the ride as he unravels, as the fact that he can’t remember what happened starts to panic him. Did he kill her? Things start to snowball when Viv discovers the body and gets locked up in the basement by the unglued Quinn, who is starting to talk to the dead Thana to get some answers. Egerton delivers an unsettling downward spiral and mixes a little warped humor in with the delirium. The good performances from Segan, Richardson and Applegate also help make the eccentric story work, too. Not everything always clicks but at under 80 minutes it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and is a disturbing and sometimes weirdly amusing flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: COLOSSAL (2016)

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COLOSSAL (2017)

Very weird flick from Nacho Vigalondo (Time Crimes, Open Windows) has troubled alcoholic Gloria (Anne Hathaway) getting the boot from her boyfriend (Dan Stevens), prompting her to move back to her family house in her home town. Not only does she reconnect with childhood schoolmate Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), but is shocked to find a gigantic creature is attacking Seoul, Korea. In a weird turn of events, Gloria soon finds that she and the gigantic creature are somehow connected, as it mimics her actions and only appears when she is in the park where a fateful event once took place a long time ago.

Writer/director Nacho Vigalondo concocts a very strange tale that almost works. It’s first half is oddly engaging despite the really weird premise and we are eager to find out what this strange beast has to do with Gloria, who is struggling to get her life together. It’s in the flick’s second half where Sudeikis’ Oscar shows his true colors, that it becomes a rather unpleasant movie as Oscar becomes more and more abusive towards Gloria. We do get some answers to our questions, but the film, at that point, stops being fun. One can appreciate Vigalondo’s boldness and the originality of his tale, but when it goes from Gloria’s whimsical and comic attempts to unravel a “colossal” mystery to her conflict with the mean-spirited and bitter Oscar, both creature and movie lose their grip.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: A CURE FOR WELLNESS (2017)

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A CURE FOR WELLNESS (2017)

Flick has an up and coming executive named Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) being sent to a wellness clinic in the Swiss Alps to retrieve his company’s estranged CEO (Harry Groener). The man is needed to complete a crucial merger and his latest correspondence has the board questioning his sanity. What Lockhart finds is a strange place where there may be something very sinister going on despite the idyllic appearance. Trapped there after a car accident, Lockhart begins to investigate the institute and it’s equally strange founder, Dr. Heinreich Volmer (Jason Issacs). But what he finds is something straight out of a nightmare…unless he too is losing his mind.

Directed by Gore Verbinski from a script by Justin Haythe, this tries to be an old fashioned gothic chiller from the likes of Edgar Allen Poe or H.P. Lovecraft, but wears out it’s spooky welcome long before it’s over. The film’s biggest problems are it’s overindulgent running time of 146 minutes and the fact that it’s hero is kind of unlikable. The flick could have been at least forty minutes shorter and not lost any important story elements and it’s hard to feel for DeHaan’s Lockhart as he is just another stereotypical ambitious suit character. There are some creepy moments and Verbinski is a skilled visualist, but the movie runs out of gas long before it’s over and where it leads can be seen coming an hour before it does finally end. An interesting effort that could have been better if it didn’t take so long to tell a story that didn’t need so much time to tell it and we actually cared what happened to it’s lead.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2

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JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 (2017)

John Wick: Chapter 2 is a well-made sequel that returns Keanu Reeves’ “retired” assassin back to action. Here he must honor the marker from Italian crime boss Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) and go to Italy to assassinate D’Antonio’s own rival crime boss of a sister, Gianna (Claudia Gerini). Wick completes the mission, but is betrayed by D’Antonio with a contract put on his head for seven million dollars. Now every assassin in the NYC area wants the bounty, including Gianna’s vengeful bodyguard (Common).

Written and directed again by Derek Kolstad and Chad Stahelski, respectively, the duo deliver an action packed and fun sequel to the surprise hit John Wick. The action is slick and rapid fire with a larger body count as now Wick must battle his own kind. The locations are used well between Rome and New York City and Reeves is again solid as the stone faced assassin, who just wants to retire. It’s an entertaining action flick and a sequel that knows to stick close enough to the formula to not alienate it’s core audience and yet change’s things just a bit to keep it from being stale. Ian McShane returns as Winston as does John Leguizamo as Aurelio with Lawrence Fishburn appearing as the leader of a guild of homeless street people assassins in NYC.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: 12 FEET DEEP (2017)

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12 FEET DEEP (2017)

Supposedly fact-based flick has two sisters, Bree (Nora-Jane Noone from The Descent and Doomsday) and Jonna (Alexandra Park), trapped by unfortunate circumstances over a holiday weekend in an indoor Olympic pool, with the fiberglass cover shut. That’s not the worst of their troubles as the emotionally disturbed maintenance woman (Diane Farr) discovers them and turns their misfortune into a night of extortion and terror.

Director Matt Eskandari’s thriller has it’s scenario born out of some unfortunate conveniences happening all at the right…or wrong…time, but as it is based on an actual incident, it can’t be all that much of a stretch. Eskandari’s script, that he wrote along with Michael Hultquist, does pack in a lot of melodramatic elements, such as the sisters sharing a tumultuous relationship, Bree being a diabetic, Jonna out of rehab and the whole ex-con with a grudge, maintenance woman thing, but they are used in just the right amounts and the director does build some nice tension and suspense from some of the clichés. Both Noone and Park give good performances, which make the melodramatics work better than they should and endear us to the two ladies in distress. Farr’s ex-con maintenance woman also starts out as a cliché bad guy, but turns out to be a bit more layered than the simple villain she first appears. The film doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at only 85 minutes and overall is a tense and entertaining time on the couch, at least as much as two girls stuck in a pool could be. A well made little thriller that takes a simple premise, that could have been silly, and makes it work to entertaining good use. Also stars “Jigsaw” himself Tobin Bell as the grumpy pool manager who carelessly locks the ladies in. Definitely worth watching.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: GHOST IN THE SHELL (2017)

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GHOST IN THE SHELL (2017)

Based on the classic Anime of the same name, flick tells the future-set story of The Major (Scarlett Johansson), who is the first of her kind, a completely cybernetic being with a human brain. The Major is part of an anti-terrorist unit and is called to action when members of Hanka Robotics, the folks that created her, are being murdered. The Major’s journey to find those responsible takes a very personal turn which may compromise her mission and cost her, her life.

On one hand it’s amazing that Blade Runner and The Matrix are still influencing movies and film-makers today, while on the other hand it’s getting kind of tiresome to see the same neon drenched city-scapes and slow motion gunfight scenes. As for the 1989 Anime by Masamune Shirow, it was ground breaking in it’s day, but almost twenty years later, the story elements have been reused and warn out. So despite some hefty influences and classic source material, this live action version has nothing really to offer and director Rupert Sanders and his script by three writers can’t change that. It’s a dull affair with plot and visual elements that we’ve all seen countless times since the films that inspired them. Even Ms. Johansson’s charms are lost among-st all the “been there, done that” and barely make this watchable for. A cyberpunk snoozefest. At least the score by Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe was 80s electronic cool.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: DIARY of the DEAD (2007)

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DIARY of the DEAD (2007)

With the loss of horror great George A. Romero earlier this week, I thought I’d “dig up” this old review of one of his last zombie flicks…

After an unpleasant experience filming Land of the Dead with a big studio, Romero returned to his low budget roots and applied the camera POV style to his latest zombie opus. He starts from scratch telling the story of a new zombie outbreak through the camera of a group of film students making a horror movie…when the real horror begins and the dead begin to rise. It’s not perfect, but it is successful at making the zombies scary again by viewing them through the eyes of the terrified students. There is the trademarked gore and the gritty low budget style suits Romero far better then Land’s big budget gloss. Romero can be preachy at times with his social views and if you’re not a fan of the POV style films, this probably won’t win you over, even if it is far less shaky than most. It’s a return to form in many respects for the master of horror, though not quite a classic like the films of his original dead trilogy. Stars Michelle Morgan, Joshua Close, Shawn Roberts, Amy Lalonde, Joe Dinicol, Scott Wentworth, Philip Riccio and Alan van Sprang whose rogue soldier character returns in the follow-up Survival of the Dead.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

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