BARE BONES: LITTLE EVIL (2017)

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LITTLE EVIL (2017)

Little Evil is a Netflix horror/comedy that has likable schlep Gary (Adam Scott) marrying pretty mom Samantha (Evangeline Lilly) and soon suspecting her six year-old son Lucas (Owen Atlas) might be the spawn of Satan…literally. And that’s kinda it.

There is little to recommend about Little Evil as it is a dreadfully unfunny attempt to spoof the bad seed/demon child scenario. Most of the jokes fall flat and the film takes itself a little too seriously anyway, which would be fine if the derivative horror elements worked at all. We’ve seen it all before and that would be fine if the flick was funny enough to laugh at the familiar tropes. It’s not. Scott is once again a dull lead and at least Lilly is perky as the oblivious mom and young Owen Atlas is suitably creepy as devil child Lucas. Other than that, the direction from Eli Craig is as pedestrian as his script is uninspired and both lack the cleverness, style or laughs to make a spoof/homage like this work. A bore from start to it’s cliché finish. Also stars Clancy Brown as a priest.

-MonsterZero NJ

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REVIEW: SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE (2015)

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SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE (2015)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Offbeat romantic comedy tells the story of Lainey (Alison Brie) and Jake (Jason Sudeikis). Twelve years ago they lost their virginities to each other in college and never saw each other again, until reconnecting twelve years later at a meeting for love addicts. Now, despite that neither of them can stay faithful in a relationship, they form a bond which may lead to the thing they both have been running away from since that fateful night…true love.

Writer/director Leslye Headland delivers a rarity, a romantic comedy that is not only cleverly funny and delightfully raunchy, but has some very heartfelt emotions that are never intrusive or overbearing. The film tries to avoid many of the clichés we are used to seeing in the more mainstream rom-com flicks and when it can’t, it uses them in a fresh and offbeat manner. Best of all, it is raunchy as can be, but unlike most flicks these days, there is some definite wit behind the raunch and thus it rarely, if ever, slips into the just plain vulgar, like so many other flicks fall right into. It gives us two very eccentric, troubled but very likable characters in Lainey and Jake and we are rooting for them to finally get together as we watch them avoid the inevitable, by continuously entering in relationships that aren’t right for them. The banter between Sudeikis and Brie is really crisp, funny and very well written and the delivery by both actors is impeccable. There is also a genuine heart to this flick that makes it work so well without ever getty sappy or overly sentimental. Sure it stumbles a bit in the last act, but regains it’s footing and gives us a satisfying conclusion fitting the eclectic characters.

This brings to the forefront the skilled cast that Headland has assembled. Community‘s Alison Brie is endearing as sweet but, very love-challenged Lainey who avoids risking her heart by pursuing a man (Adam Scott) with his own commitments. Sudeikis is really good as the kind-hearted ladies man, Jake, who avoids putting his heart at risk by sleeping around and breaking off anything that starts to resemble a relationship. He has some really clever dialogue and delivers it masterfully and has a nice self deprecating humor that keeps the character humbled despite his numerous conquests. He and Brie have a great chemistry together and their conversations are engaging and often hilariously dirty. There is also a definite spark between the two stars and you can see their feelings bubbling beneath all the evasiveness and denial. There is also top notch support from Amanda Peet, Adam Scott, Natasha Lyonne and Marc Blucas as the various people around our leads. All slightly eclectic characters that refreshingly avoid the stereotypes that usually populate these movies.

I really enjoyed this flick. Not only was a it an engaging romance, but was delightfully offbeat, cleverly written and very raunchy and funny. It had a sweet love story at it’s core surrounded by some eccentric but endearing characters. Filmmaker Leslye Headland gives some needed wit to the dirtier material and gets great chemistry and performances out of her cast. She also films New York with a loving lens and it makes you fall in love with the city, as well as, the characters she’s let loose inside it. A really entertaining indie romantic comedy.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 and 1/2 green tea bottles…just watch the movie.

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REVIEW: KRAMPUS (2015)

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KRAMPUS (2015)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘R Treat became an almost instant classic once the flick was discovered on DVD and now he is finally back in the director’s chair with Krampus, a dark comic fantasy based on European folklore. The legendary Krampus is a demonic creature that serves as an anti-Santa Claus, who comes to punish the naughty at Christmas time…at least according to parts of Western Europe.

This tale finds young Max (Emjay Anthony) becoming increasingly disappointed with his family and their completely dysfunctional treatment of Christmas, which Max still believes in. His spirit is broken when his redneck cousins push him to the edge when mockingly reading his letter to Santa out loud at an already spoiled pre-Christmas dinner. He shreds his letter and casts it angrily out the window denouncing Christmas and any hope of having a happy one. This evokes a massive snowstorm and power outage and at it’s core lurks the creature of legend Krampus, along with his demonic elves and minions, who soon, one-by-one, start taking the members of this holiday-challenged family to a very un-merry fate.

Krampus is not quite the devious and twisted fun that Trick ‘R Treat was, at least not until all hell breaks loose in it’s last act. As co-written with Zach Shields and Todd Casey, Dougherty goes for something with a little more mainstream accessibility and thus with less of an edge than his Halloween classic. The PG-13 movie is a bit more family friendly film, but certainly does have it’s dark, wicked moments and satirical…though cliché…jabs at what Christmas has become in modern times. No better is this illustrated than in it’s opening credits sequence set at a mall. There are some suspenseful moments, but the film don’t quite have the constant atmosphere of ghoulish fun that graced Trick ‘R Treat. The earlier scenes of family chaos are a tad flat and presented the cliché ‘yuppies vs white trash’ scenario seen so many times before. On the plus side, Dougherty’s sumptuous visual style dazzles and chills with his snow-covered vista’s and the dark shadows that dance in fireplace lit rooms. His creatures are all twisted, evil versions of classic Christmas toys and characters, including the title monster himself. That and a splendid animated flashback about halfway through…the best segment in the film…evokes elements of Tim Burton when he was at the top of his game. The FX of this modestly budget film are all top notch and exquisitely designed though, I was not quite as impressed by Krampus himself as I should have been. He looks cool, but doesn’t have much more impact than some of his minions, such as the kid devouring jack-in-the-box or vicious ginger bread men, which evoked nervous giggles from the audience. Adding to some of the film’s atmospheric moments is Trick ‘R Treat composer Douglas Pipes’ effective score, aided by Jules O’Loughlin’s lush and spooky cinematography. Dougherty succeeds here more than he slips and overall this is a fun movie if not totally living up to his previous fan favorite.

The cast was a mixed bag for me. I am not a fan of Adam Scott, who I find very bland and he was so here as dad, Tom. Toni Collette is wasted in a very stereotypical suburban mom role, as Sarah, that gives this gifted actress very little to do except grimace at her redneck relatives and look worried/scared. Young Emjay Anthony fares much better as the sensitive and disillusioned Max, though the story has him take a back seat to the more bland Scott and David Koechner, who plays gung-ho brother-in law Howard. Stefania LaVie Owen showed some moxie as Max’s sister Beth, but the script has her disappear in the first act and Krista Stadler was good as Tom’s European mother “Omi” who provides old-world charm and the Krampus exposition we and the film’s characters need. The rest…including hard working character actress Conchata Ferrell…all play cliché white trash members of Sarah’s sister Linda’s (Allison Tolman) family and they are stereotypes we’ve all seen before.

I liked Krampus and more worked for me than didn’t. I did wish it had a bit more of an edge and that things were a little livelier in it’s more sedate, cliché and sometimes flat, beginning. The second half of the film really delivers what we came for, especially the last act and makes up for it’s weaker parts, though I wish the film kept it’s focus on Max instead of turning it over to the blander adults. The film looks gorgeous and the spooky visuals, creature designs and animated flashback reminded me of Tim Burton at his finest. Not quite the instant classic that Trick ‘R Treat was, but a film that certainly entertains, overall and may grow on one even more, upon repeat holiday viewings. Flawed but still recommended.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 Christmas trees.

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BARE BONES: A.C.O.D., IN A WORLD…, BAD MILO and CBGB

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A.C.O.D. (2013)

Not bad, but, not overly good either. Comedy takes a look at the now grown-up first generation raised on the effects of widespread divorce and it might have been more fun if it actually went somewhere and leading man Adam Scott wasn’t so annoying a character and dull an actor. There is a talented cast, such as Amy Poehler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Catherine O’Hara and with such talent you just expect more then we get in this mediocre comedy.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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IN A WORLD… (2013)

Lake Bell makes her directorial debut in this mildly amusing story of a voice coach (director, Bell) who wants to follow in her father’s (Fred Melamed) footsteps and enter the male dominated movie trailer narration business. There are some nice moments, a few solid laughs and Bell gives a spunky performance but, the story ultimately doesn’t really go anywhere and the film’s tone is rather flat and needed more energy to get us really involved. Original plot idea, though, I’ll give it that.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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Bad Milo (2013)

Absolutely awful horror “comedy”  written and directed by Jacob Vaughn about a small creature living in a man’s (Ken Marino) colon that is a product of his subconscious rage and comes out to savagely murder anyone who causes him stress. Really!… that’s what it’s about! Crude, vulgar and completely unfunny. Also Peter Stormare and stars Community’s Gillian Jacobs. Pure crap but, at least the make-up FX guys come off with some of their reputations intact.

1 and 1-2 star rating

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CBGB (2013)

How can you take the story of such an iconic place and turn it into such a pretentious and dull movie? Tries so hard to be hip and cool, that it forgets to simply be good… or that the story of this legendary club pretty much tells itself without all the self-indulgent ‘look what I learned in film school’ hocus-pocus. Worse of all, it succeeds in making the great Alan Rickman seem boring. At least there is a cool soundtrack and I still have my memories of actually being there which, I’m not sure co-writer director Randall Miller ever was. If he was, he completely missed the point of the place by making such a pretentious film about it and it’s infamous founder/owner Hilly Kristal.

2 star rating

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