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 undisturbed?

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: JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT and MR. JONES

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JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT (2014)

Reboot of this series based on Tom Clancy’s character features Chris Pine as a young Ryan recruited into the CIA as an analyst by agent Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) after an impressive tour in Afghanistan that left Ryan with an injured back. Once healed, Ryan is sent undercover  for 10 years on Wall Street to uncover funds being channeled to terrorist organizations but, instead finds a plot between Russian businessman Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh who also directs) and high ranking Russian officials to completely bring down the U.S. economy. Harper thrusts Ryan into the field that takes the rookie agent from Moscow and back to New York City to stop the plot which involves a exploding a bomb under Wall Street. Branagh delivers an entertaining thriller based on Adam Cozad and David Koepp’s screenplay and gets good performances from himself and his cast. The film only falters when Ryan’s girlfriend Cathy (Keira Knightley) gets involved in the intrigue as it is cliche’ and highly improbable the CIA would risk the mission by involving a civilian directly in so delicate an operation. But, otherwise it is a solid enough thriller and while not memorable, it does pass the time nicely and moves quickly with enough action to offset the espionage.

3 star rating

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MR. JONES (2013)

For the first 2/3 of the film, this found footage horror had me. The premise involves a young couple Scott (Jon Foster) and Penny (Sarah Jones) who move into a house in the middle of nowhere so Scott can film a nature documentary. But, the discovery of a mysterious neighbor and his bizarre sculptures leads the couple to think they have found the elusive “Mr. Jones” a reclusive artist who, in the 70s, sent random people around the country his strange pieces without explanation. In the art world he is something of a legend and myth. Now the subject of their film becomes Jones but, they start to find there is something more to his sculptures then art and that something may be a force they are not ready to deal with. Writer/director Karl Mueller comes up with a very interesting story and angle in which to work in the found footage format and it does grab the viewer at first but, then he blows it in his last act by trying to get too artsy and allowing the film to become simply incoherent and confusing. He goes overboard with his editing and visuals and totally looses control of the story which gets lost in an endless montage of imagery meant to be hallucinogenic but, only induces a headache and leaves us wondering what is really going on. It’s too vague and some of the images flashed before us seem simply random and without purpose. His small cast are fine and he does have a nice visual style but, in the end, gets too over-indulgent for his own good instead of finishing out what started as an intriguing story. Still, with a little restraint, Mueller could yet turn into a filmmaker to watch. Also stars Iron Man and Star Trek’s Faran Tahir which throws off the found footage illusion as he has been in two very high profile films and is instantly recognizable.

  2 and 1-2 star rating

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