BARE BONES: MANDY (2018)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

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

Humerus-Bone1

bars
Advertisements

BARE BONES: BATTLE OF THE SEXES (2017)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

BATTLE OF THE SEXES (2017)

A great cast highlights this retelling of the epic “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King in 1973 during the height of the Women’s Liberation movement. It takes us on the journey leading up to the match, with up and coming female tennis player Billie Jean King fighting for equality within the pro tennis circuit and retired champ and gambler Bobby Riggs looking for a return to glory and a big payday.

Film is written by Simon Beaufoy and directed by Little Miss Sunshine duo Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton and is perfectly cast, especially in regards to it’s leads. Stone and Carell play King and Riggs spot on with Carell really enjoying Riggs’ attempts to “put the show in chauvinism”. If the film falters a bit it’s that it’s first half leading up to the challenge is a bit drab. It focuses a lot on the married King’s affair with a female hairdresser (Andrea Riseborough) and her attempts to start her own tennis tournament with World Tennis Magazine founder, Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman). It is very heavy on melodrama and is a bit dreary at times. It picks up in the second half when King finally accepts Riggs’ challenge and the lead-up to the match becomes a media circus and a major event. The second half has the energy and spark, that the first half was lacking, though those early story elements are of importance to the overall tale. Even knowing how the actual event ended, it’s still a lot of fun to watch this great cast play it out and makes this film so worth seeing. Also stars Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming and Elisabeth Shue as Riggs’ wife Priscilla.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HIDDEN (2015)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

hidden 2015

bars

HIDDEN (2015)

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

Intense thriller has a family hiding in an old bomb shelter in fear of what lurks on the surface. Ray (Alexander Skarsgård), his wife Claire (Andrea Riseborough) and their daughter Zoe (Emily Alyn Lind) have been hiding here since a virus began to ‘change people’ and now they are in fear of ‘the breathers’ who are hunting for them above. Life is hard in their sequestered hiding spot, but they try to remain a family until an unfortunate accident leads those lurking on the surface to their little safe haven.

Directed and scripted by Ross and Matt Duffer, this is a very intense and suspenseful thriller which keeps the events that forced the family here a mystery, one it slowly unveils over the course of this tense little movie. We get flashbacks as the family remembers the events that sent them to the old school bomb shelter and despite not getting an explanation for the first two acts as to who ‘the breathers’ are, we can tell by the family’s fear that are something to be afraid of…and it sets us on edge. Once the Duffers finally let us in on the who’s and what’s, it is a clever and shocking surprise that works and works really well. To give anymore details away would ruin a solid little thriller, suffice to say the last act comes with some intense action and surprising blood spattering as things literally explode to the surface. The film is given a nice atmosphere of fear and foreboding and that is aided by Thomas Townend’s moody cinematography and David Julyan’s equally moody score. A first rate thriller with some nice and clever surprises.

The small cast is excellent. Alexander Skarsgård successfully portrays a man trying to keep his family safe and together despite the heinous conditions they are forced to live in. He is very likable and will go to any length to protect his family. He has maintained his playfulness when it comes to his daughter, even living under such dire conditions. Andrea Riseborough is equally strong and gives us a caring woman who also will do anything to keep her little girl safe. She is a little more cautious than her husband, but the contrast makes the characters work well together. Young Emily Alyn Lind is endearing and actually a solid little actress as daughter Zoe. She has her fears about what lurks above but retains that child-like innocence and curiosity. She can also be quite brave when she needs to. A solid cast for a vey well-made thriller.

I really enjoyed this movie. Very well directed by the Duffers and very cleverly scripted. It gives us a tense situation with some mysterious circumstances and keeps the atmosphere and tension constant by only slowly revealing the whole picture. There are some shocking and inventive revelations in the last act as well as some intense action and bloody violence, as the story takes us out of the claustrophobic hiding place and into the world. A first rate little thriller and a really impressive feature debut from Ross and Matt Duffer.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 canned peaches.

hidden_rating

 

bars

BARE BONES: BIRDMAN and FURY

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

birdman

BIRDMAN (2014)

Birdman is a quirky and refreshingly off-beat comedy/drama from director Alejandro G. Iñárritu and appropriately stars Michael Keaton as Riggan Thompson, an actor trying to reignite his fading star. Riggan was once world famous for starring in the lead of the popular superhero franchise, Birdman. Now he’s entering his 60s and trying to validate himself and add some relevance back to his life by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway play. Obviously, what can go wrong, will go wrong and there are an eccentric group of characters…including his imaginary, costumed alter-ego…in the mix to add to Riggan’s troubles. Iñárritu has a very original style that fits the story so well. It’s filled with lengthy tracking shots following our characters from scene to scene and some delightfully surreal moments as well. The cast are all top notch, with Keaton giving one of his best performances and it definitely is his show. He is supported by the likes of Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough who are all excellent in their roles, too. But, in my humble opinion, it is Emma Stone who steals every scene she’s in with her best work to date as Riggan’s fresh out of rehab daughter. She is simply a powerhouse in some scenes and holds her own…and more…with the seasoned veterans. A flick worthy of it’s praise. The only negative I had was that the jazz drum score got on my nerves after awhile. Otherwise, a great little movie.

three and one half stars rating

Humerus-Bone1

fury

FURY (2014)

If you are a fan of WWII flicks and all the familiar trappings, then you’ll probably enjoy this. I found it to be kinda dull and any dramatic weight or intensity of the action is brought down by an overload of clichés. The story, written and directed by David Ayer, finds Staff Sergeant Don Collier (Brad Pitt) leading his tank crew deep into Germany in 1945 to clean up the last of the German military resistance…and not having an easy time of it. Ayer throws every cliché in the book from situations to stereotypical war movie characters and adds some Private Ryan style violence, but the effect is still that we’ve seen it all before, since the very first WWII movie was made. The film is well-directed and action well-staged, but it’s just too familiar to be interesting and takes very few risks to liven things up. If you like this kind of film, go for it. Otherwise it’s nothing you haven’t seen in countless other likewise movies. The solid cast also stars Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña, Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal and Logan Lerman as the stereotypical green newbie.

2 and 1-2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1
bars

REVIEW: OBLIVION (2013)

marquee_reviews

now playing

OblivionPoster

bars

OBLIVION (2013)

Oblivion is set in a not too distant future where fending off an alien invasion has left Earth ravaged and all but uninhabitable. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) also know as Tech 49 is left on the now evacuated planet with his communications officer and lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), his job is to maintenance the armed drones that watch over and protect large floating machines that are turing sea water into fusion energy for use on the human race’s new home on the Saturn moon, Titan. But, despite having his memory wiped, Jack has dreams of a pre-war Earth and a mysterious and beautiful woman (Olga Kurylenko). He finds himself drawn to the relics of the past earth though told to leave such thoughts behind by Victoria and his superiors in the massive command station that hoovers in orbit called The Tet. But, as the remaining alien forces know as ‘Scavs’ escalate their attacks on the drones and power stations, Jack continues to feel like something isn’t right. And as a ship crash lands on Earth carrying the very woman he dreams of and she and Jack are captured by the Scavs, Jack soon finds out that all is not what it seems and maybe he isn’t either. What I really liked about Writer/Director Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion is that it reminded me of the pre-Star Wars science fiction films of the 70s, when they were more story driven and less action oriented. And a lot of it’s story elements and visuals seem to draw from films like Silent Running and Omega Man and even more modern epics like Independence Day to name a few. Kosinski gives the film a leisurely pace as Jack slowly finds out more and more about the true nature of the world and life he thought he knew. There are some nice action scenes and these are well staged and move fast but, overall Kosinski wisely lets his story develop over the course of the film and we are along with Jack as he learns some hard to accept realities. The film has a beautiful visual style. I was not a fan of Kosinski’s Tron: Legacy but, it was a gorgeous looking film as is this. Sure the visuals seem to be inspired by past post-apocalyptic epics but, I still though the look and design was captivating. As for it’s minimal cast, Cruise is excellent as Jack. I feel Tom Cruise can be… well, Tom Cruise in a lot of his recent flicks but, here I saw and accepted him as Jack and he portrayed well the emotions of a man with a burning curiosity about things he’s told to accept as is and who finds his life may be a lie. Riseborough is fine as his partner in all respects. She seems sweet and she generally cares about Jack especially when his curiosity has him defy orders. Kurylenko is appropriately mysterious at first but, as the story progresses she meets the demands of the script. Rounding out the cast are Morgan Freeman and Game Of Throne’s Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who are fine as other humans Jack encounters. The production is relatively flawless with a really cool score by French band M83. When all is said and done I enjoyed Oblivion. I didn’t feel like I had seen anything new or innovative, and it’s secrets are not hard to figure out beforehand. It seemed like a lot of influences from past films blended together… though, very well, I might add… but, ultimately nothing groundbreaking or too surprising. I could probably pick out a lot more films whose elements I recognized but, Kosinski and company have crafted an entertaining sci-fi flick that warmly harkened back to an age where spaceships and laser guns were there to enhance a story and were not the point of the story so, I ‘ll give them a bit of a break. In conclusion Oblivion is an entertaining and very well made film that may not be anything new but, was still a refreshing return to when science fiction was about the story and characters and not Transformers and superheroes.

3 drones!

oblivion rating

bars