BARE BONES: THOROUGHBREDS (2018)

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THOROUGHBREDS (2018)

Story takes place in a wealthy suburb in Connecticut and finds emotionally troubled Amanda (Olivia Cooke) facing trial for animal cruelty for brutally euthanizing her crippled horse. She is currently being tutored by Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) who hates her jerk of a new step-father Mark (Paul Sparks). Amanda suggests they kill him and Lily takes her up on the idea. When recruiting a local drug dealer (Anton Yelchin) to do the job fails, they begin to plot how to do it themselves.

Off-beat flick is written and stylishly directed by Cory Finley, but when all is said and done, doesn’t have much of a point. Unhappy kids plotting the murder of a parent or step-parent is nothing new and though it holds our attention, it ultimately doesn’t really go anywhere all that interesting. There is a bit of an unexpected twist towards it’s conclusion, but even that doesn’t add much overall to the scenario. Taylor-Joy and Cooke both deliver really good performances, especially Cooke’s emotionally detached Amanda, but Paul Sparks is just your stereotypical douche step-parent, though good at it. It’s bittersweet to see Yelchin in one of his last performances and his turn as delinquent Tim illustrates why he is sadly missed. Entertaining to a degree, but not unique enough to make a well-worn plot feel fresh and it comes to a conclusion that doesn’t feel like the film actually accomplished anything. Acting gives it a little extra in the rating.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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REVIEW: STAR TREK BEYOND (2016)

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STAR TREK BEYOND (2016)

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

Flick picks up almost three years into the Enterprise’s five year exploration mission, which puts them cleverly “beyond” the first three years/seasons of the original show and thus into new story territory. This third installment of J.J. Abrams’ reboot series is now directed by Justin Lin and tells of a devastating attack on the Enterprise while on a rescue mission in uncharted space. An alien warlord named Krall (Idris Elba) wants not only an ancient device stored on the ship, but the crew itself to drain their life-forces. With their precious ship destroyed and now stranded and hunted on an alien world, Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and McCoy (Karl Urban) must figure out a way to rescue the crew, stop Krall’s diabolical plan and get home to friendlier space.

Justin Lin doesn’t quite bring the dramatic intensity Abrams did to his Trek films and his action scenes may not resonate as strongly, but with Simon Pegg and Doug Jung’s script in hand, he does give the series a lighter and more fun touch than the more dour Star Trek Into Darkness. The film also feels the most like a Star Trek episode which works for and against it, but mostly for. Giving the flick a less epic feel than the previous two, does reduce the spectacle aspect of the proceedings and the action is more close quarters fisticuffs than battling starships until the last act confrontation at a gigantic space station. Massive sets are replaced by alien landscapes and caves, but much like the 60s series and even the Next Generation series, these are settings our characters often found themselves in. This does give way to some really nice character interaction, as the FX take a back seat, with new character, alien refugee Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) fitting in nicely when paired with members of the prime crew. In true Star Trek tradition, the first two thirds of the film follow along as the crew does what they do best, use their wits to figure out how to survive and save the day. Then we get some of the spectacle we’ve come to expect from this reboot series, in the finale. In comparison, not quite the action packed popcorn flick the first Abrams Trek was, yet also doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously as Into Darkness, which is refreshing. There are some really nice Trek moments, too, including a nice tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy’s Spock Prime and a shot quietly celebrating the original Trek crew for this year’s 50th anniversary, that will surely moisten the eye of even the hardest-hearted Trekkie. The film also earns extra points for dedicating the film to both Nimoy and Anton “Chekov” Yelchin, who was tragically killed just a few weeks ago. A real touch of class…which is what Star Trek was always all about. On a production level the film looks great, Lin has a good visual eye and the FX are spectacular, especially during the cranked-up and fun finale.

The cast once again bring these classic characters to life, but not without their own individual touches and the script from Simon “Scotty” Pegg and Doug Jung does it’s best to give each character healthy interaction and scenes for them to shine. It was nice to see Anton Yelchin get a generous amount of screen time with what is sadly his last performance as Pavel Chekov and Pine, Quinto, Urban, Saldana, Cho and Pegg all have their classic character interpretations locked in. As for the newcomers, Sofia Boutella is feisty and energetic as Jaylah, a survivor of Krall’s villainy whose “home” plays an integral part in our heroes’ plans to defeat the despotic bad guy. As Krall, we have a strong villain in Idris Elba, though we could have used some more time getting to know him a little better as his motivation aren’t really clear till the last act reveal…a reveal sadly seen coming almost from the beginning. If the script has a big flaw, it’s in failing to keep it’s big surprise from being obvious early in the second act.

Overall, this was a fun movie. Though in some ways the weakest of the three, due to Lin simply not being as strong a director as Abrams, especially on the last two films. He moves things fast enough but sometimes a bit more dramatic intensity was called for. Still, it is lighter and more fun than the last installment, though it being the most Star Trek of the three, might also alien-ate (had too) some of the non-Trek crowd that supported the last two flicks. For Trek fans it’s more like an episode than a movie and the most nostalgic because of that, especially when you add some really nice touches harkening back to it’s TV forefathers. Not a great flick, but a fun installment that earns extra points for it’s loving tributes to a legendary actor and his character, not to mention, a young talent taken from us far too soon…and if Star Trek is about anything, it’s about heart…and this film has plenty of that.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 starships.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: GREEN ROOM (2016)

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GREEN ROOM (2016)

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

Flick is written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier who also made the entertaining but somewhat overrated Blue Ruin. The story finds down-on-their-luck punk band the The Ain’t Rights (Anton Yelchin, Joe Cole, Callum Turner and Alia Shawkat) taking a gig at a remote backwoods club in Oregon run by neo-nazis and heroine dealers. They walk in on the murder of a local girl by one of the skinheads (Brent Werzner) and now find themselves trapped in the club green room, with the dead girl’s friend (Imogen Poots), as the owner, Darcy (Patrick Stewart) tries to figure out how to keep these outsiders quiet…permanently. Soon the band are in a brutal fight for their lives as Darcy and his white supremacists try to set their fatal plan in motion.

Saulnier creates a vicious and brutal little thriller with some surprising horror movie level gore and an intense last act, but like his Blue Ruin, it’s not quite as suspenseful and gripping as it could be. One of the reasons is that it takes almost an hour before it really starts to get intense and there is a about a half hour of meandering about after the set-up. There is some awkward negotiating back and forth through a locked door that occurs at this time and it really doesn’t go anywhere till Darcy finally sends his thugs in after them. Another reason is that the character development is a little thin, especially on the bad guy’s side and thus the villains, aside from Stewart, could have had more menace and we could have been a bit more endeared to the band. Once the group leaves the green room, there is some cat and mouse action between skinheads and punk band that provides some brutal and violent results. Then the movie hits it’s stride and we are engaged till the final blood-soaked confrontation with Darcy and the survivors. Here in the final third, the flick works and is at it’s most effective.

The cast perform well enough, though the lack of strong character development does hinder their efforts a bit. The late Anton Yelchin is our lead as the cowardly Pat who has to rise above his fears to fight for his life and it is a cliché role, but Yelchin is solid as always. Stewart oozes menace as the neo-nazi leader Darcy and the choice to play the role more understated makes Darcy far more scary than an over-the-top villain. Cole, Turner and Shawkat are fine as the rest of the band, but again, the lack of stronger character development leaves us less endeared to them, especially Turner’s Tiger, who is focused on the least. Poots is fine as Amber, the friend of the murdered girl and while Amber is a fighter, she is also underdeveloped and sort of just thrown in with the band when things hit the fan, so we never develop a strong bond with her character either.

Not a completely successful thriller, but still an entertaining and sometimes very brutal one. Would have been more effective with better character development on both sides, especially with the bad guys and if the middle act wasn’t a bit stagnant. It does click into gear in the final third and then we get some suspenseful moments, some vicious violence and some of the intensity we came for. Jeremy Saulnier seems like a filmmaker in progress and may yet really wow us when he connects on all cylinders.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 machetes.

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DATE MOVIE: LIKE CRAZY (2011)

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LIKE CRAZY (2011)

With the tragic passing of actor Anton Yelchin, I thought I’d pay tribute by posting a review I wrote pre-blog about this charming romantic drama he was in with hotties Felicity Jones and Jennifer Lawrence. I chose to resurrect the Date Movie column, thought it was originally created, as obvious by the rating system below, to showcase horror flicks that were good for watching with that someone special. This isn’t a horror flick, but is a good date movie nonetheless…

Like Crazy is a emotional and sometimes heartbreaking tale of two college grads in a long distance relationship. American Jacob Helm (Anton Yelchin) and Brit Anna Gardner (Felicity Jones from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) fall in love when they meet in school in L.A. But when Anna violates her student visa to stay with Jacob, she is forced to go back to England and is banned from returning. The couple must now try to decide if their love is strong enough to make this relationship work or move on with their lives.

Like Crazy is an emotional roller coaster as we watch the heartache and indecision that Jacob and Anna go through. They want to be together, but enter other relationships when they are apart. They can’t seem to walk away from each other, but can’t wait till Anna’s visa problems can be worked out. Director and co-writer (with Ben York Jones) Drake Doremus creates a tumultuous relationship that really draws you in. He really makes you believe these two are in love, but at the same time, presents two young people who may not be ready for what true love means. It is very realistic at times in portraying the turmoil of being in a relationship strained by outside elements and the indecision of one’s own heart. For those looking for a romantic drama where everything wraps up in a neat and happy little bow, you may be in for a reality check.

The director draws excellent performances from stars Yelchin and Jones and even draws sympathy for those they bring into their lives and hurt with their indecisiveness. Jacob with sweet and loving Samantha (Jennifer Lawrence) and Anna with her yuppie boyfriend Simon (Charlie Bewley) who wants to marry her. They refuse to be honest with other about their other relationships while they work to settle the problems that keep them continents apart. All adding up to one big question… are either of them ready to truly be in love and deal with all that comes with it?

Like Crazy may portray the story of a difficult love far more realisticly than the average romantic may care for but, it is an emotionally engaging and sometimes heartbreaking tale of first real love. I highly recommend it for indie film fans and for those who like their romances Hollywood cliche’ free. If you are a fan of Yelchin or any other of the cast members, I also recommend it for their work in it, too!

-MonsterZero NJ

… that equals 3 and 1/2 on the Date-O-Meter!

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BARE BONES: AREA 51, BURYING THE EX and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROUGUE NATION

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AREA 51 (2015)

After the smash success of Paranormal Activity, Oren Peli returned to the director’s chair for his sophomore effort in 2009…and the movie has since languished in post-production hell for the last six years…now we know why. Found footage flick has a silly plot with three young friends (Darrin Bragg, Reid Warner and Ben Rovner) concocting an absurd scheme to break into the infamous Area 51 military base. They have the help of a former employee’s daughter (Jelena Nik) and succeed where many have failed.

Obviously, they are not happy with what they find…and neither are we. Flick takes a ridiculous 70 minutes for anything interesting to happen and at about 95 minutes long (including it’s slow crawl credits) that’s simply too long to wait. What we do get is amusing, but exactly what you’d expect to get in a flick about Area 51 and it’s fleetingly glimpsed and over far too quickly. There is barely anything resembling scares or suspense and what we do finally encounter is very predictable and been done before, especially in the X-Files…and done better. Area 51’s actual secrets may still be a mystery, but why this flick sat for six years and was quietly dumped onto VOD and home media, isn’t.

 -MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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BURYING THE EX (2014)

Director Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins) has made quite a few classic films, which is why it’s disappointing that his latest effort is so sadly mediocre. Story has horror movie fan and slacker Max (Anton Yelchin) dating the hot but extremely bitchy, Evelyn (Ashley Greene), while he could be with the sweet, horror movie-themed-ice-cream-shop owner, Olivia (Alexandra Daddario). The wrong words said in front of the wrong magic item in the shop Max works at, ensures he will be with Evelyn forever…even when she is hit by a bus and killed. Now, as he desperately wants to date Olivia, Max’s girlfriend is back and there’s going to be trouble.

Flick’s problems lie in it’s uninspired and sadly unfunny script by Alan Trezza. Dante tries to give it some life and it is colorful and filled with the horror movie references and imagery Dante excels at, but the script is unimaginative, predictable and let’s Dante down at every turn. The premise has been done before, but still could have made fun use of it’s scenario, instead it is routine and without the wit to really make this a good time. At least Dante get’s good work out of the cast as Yelchin, Greene and Daddario…who is especially endearing as the ultimate horror geek girlfriend fantasy, Olivia…do their best to get something out of their thinly written parts. With a better script this could have been a real treat as it had a great director!

 -MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION (2015)

I originally was not a fan of this series, but to be honest, each installment has been an improvement over the last with this and the previous installment, Ghost Protocol, being a lot of fun. Dare I say this series has finally hit it’s stride with it’s fourth and fifth entries. This chapter finds the IMF being dissolved by the government right in the middle of Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Cruise) mission to track down “The Syndicate”, an organization that is the IMF’s equal, yet dedicated to disruption and terrorism. Now considered a rogue agent and being hunted around the world, Hunt must team with Benji (Simon Pegg), Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Luther (Ving Rhames) and mysterious agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) to bring the syndicate down.

As written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, Rogue Nation is fast-paced and entertaining with some great camaraderie between Cruise and his team, especially Pegg. There are some fun action sequences and some thrilling escapes with the usual espionage and covert operations mixed in. The only thing holding it back a little, is that the action is nothing out of the ordinary, despite being well-staged and the main villain (Sean Harris) is rather weak. Otherwise this is a fun spy/action flick and Swedish actress Ferguson gets to steal a few scenes from Cruise…which isn’t an easy thing to do. Also stars Alec Baldwin as a CIA thorn in the IMF’s side. Fun!

 -MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BOOK REVIEW: THE ODD THOMAS SERIES by DEAN KOONTZ

HONORABLE MENTION #1

THE ODD THOMAS SERIES by DEAN KOONTZ

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While this is, of course, primarily a movie blog, I will occasionally review a book now and then, especially if it has some significance to movies. As this entertaining series had it’s first book adapted into an underrated and fun flick by Stepehen Sommers, I figured why not review the whole series as it has reached it’s final chapter by it’s author, Dean Koontz! Sadly, the movie Odd Thomas was sent straight to home media, but I would love to see the franchise continue in movie form with the perfectly cast Anton Yelchin returning as Odd! UPDATE: Obviously this statement was written before Anton Yelchin’s tragic death -MZNJ

WARNING!: Some of the reviews may reveal spoiler-ish information about the previous book. I tried to avoid this as much as possible, but it wasn’t always easy to convey the story without giving away some details of the previous installment!

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ODD THOMAS by DEAN KOONTZ

I decided to check this book out after seeing the movie adaptation, which I liked very much. The book was a lot of fun, as was the film. It was delightfully offbeat with a truly endearing cast of characters and a suspenseful plot with hero Odd going up against some very supernatural and very human evils. A really entertaining and fast paced read…and who could resist a hero that is befriended by a spectral Elvis Presley? Anyone interested in checking out Stephen Sommers’ movie adaptation, it captures the spirit and a lot of the action of the book quite well and Anton Yelchin is perfectly cast as Odd as is Addison Timlin as Stormy Llewellyn.

four stars rating

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FOREVER ODD by DEAN KOONTZ

I enjoyed this second adventure of Dean Koontz’s offbeat hero, it’s not as good as the first book, but it is an enjoyable read and Thomas is such a likable and delightfully eccentric character that he gets you through any of the weak spots with his engaging wit and offbeat commentary. This book picks up six months after the last one with Odd still suffering the effects of the mall shootings. While he saved hundreds, there were still close to two dozen who did perish, his beloved Stormy among them. But things don’t stay quiet long for Odd, as a longtime friend is kidnapped and the boy’s father murdered by a sinister occult-obsessed woman and her two dangerous thugs. Odd tracks them to a burnt out casino in the desert only to find his friend is just bait in a trap and Odd himself is the actual prey. Can he get himself and his friend out alive?

While the story is on a smaller scale and the villainous Datura is a more over-the-top villain than he faced last time, she is a fun and detestable bad girl and Odd’s cat and mouse games with her and her thugs in the maze of burnt out casino floors and hallways is quite fun. Sure, it doesn’t have the suspense or mystery of the first book, but it still is an entertaining tale, even if on a smaller scale and it’s just fun to spend more time with Odd. He’s a great character. The one thing I do really miss though, is his camaraderie with Stormy. Their dialog exchanges were priceless in book one, but Odd’s inner monologue narration is certainly a lot of fun as always. Not an equal but an enjoyable sequel.

3 star rating

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BROTHER ODD by DEAN KOONTZ

I really enjoyed what is the ‘oddest’ Odd Thomas adventure, so far, from author Dean Koontz. After the events of the last book, Odd decides he needs a break from the real world and the supernatural and goes to the monastery of St. Bartholomew’s Abbey for some peace, quiet and reflection. But the supernatural finds him, as an appearance by the harbingers of doom, the Bodachs, signals something terrifying is about to befall this peaceful retreat of monks, nuns and orphaned children. Once again Odd is put to the test as something he’s never encountered before starts stalking and killing in this idyllic place and Odd himself has seen this form of death incarnate. And what does a mysterious Russian monk and an eccentric genius turned holy man possibly have to do with it?…maybe nothing, or maybe everything, but will Odd Thomas find out in time?

I really enjoyed that author Koontz set such a strange adventure for Odd in such a, by contrast, peaceful yet remote place. He goes outside the box here taking his story beyond the supernatural in a very entertaining tale that echos The Name Of The Rose, The Seventh Sign and a dash of James Bond. In other hands it might have been a mess, but Koontz is no stranger to mash-ups, he’s done it long before that became a pop culture phrase. Here he makes his story work and no better glue to hold it together then the wonderfully engaging and endearing Odd Thomas. A fun, fast read that takes us in new directions yet, still gives us all we want from an Odd Thomas novel. Chilling and fun with a very engaging cast of characters!

three and one half stars rating

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ODD HOURS by DEAN KOONTZ

I really love Koontz’s Odd Thomas character and this is the first adventure of his that I was really disappointed with. The story takes Odd into James Bond territory as his stop in the shore community of Magic Beach leads him, his ghost dog Boo and the spectral Frank Sinatra into a plot that has corrupt locals allowing an undisclosed Middle Eastern country to deliver four nuclear weapons to their shores to be distributed to various U.S. targets.

The adventure doesn’t seem to fit the character, as it would Bond, or TV’s Jack Bauer and the supernatural elements that are usually well integrated in Odd’s stories are used here in very silly ways…Sinatra’s poltergeist activities…or simply as plot conveniences to get Odd out of trouble. Not to mention that the most intriguing new characters all take a backseat to the bland generic villains. After three previous efforts that were all very entertaining in various degrees, this installment would have been a complete disappointment if it weren’t for Odd himself who is still a delightful character, despite that the book takes him to places I was sad to see his character go. Not a complete waste of time, but very disappointing and hopefully Odd’s drastic actions in this book don’t sully a very unique and enjoyable character

2 star rating

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ODD INTERLUDE by DEAN KOONTZ

Odd Interlude was a special adventure written by Koontz that was originally only available digitally, but finally found it’s way to print. It is set between Odd Hours and Odd Apocalypse during a stopover at a roadside motel/diner/service station by the name of Harmony Cove. Here Odd encounters the Harmony family who are trapped and being controlled by strangely powerful man by the name of Dr. Hiskott. Odd is obligated to save them, but Hiskott knows he is there and would use the helpless Harmony family as tools to see Odd and his companion Annamarie, dead.

I really liked this book, it was very much like an episode of The X-Files with secret government research facilities, artificial intelligence, alien artifacts and DNA, and the horrifying result of that DNA’s mix with an already off-kilter scientist. It’s a fast read and a lot of fun and despite the previous events of Magic Beach, Odd seems more like his old humorous self. It’s a very enjoyable entry in the series and ranks with the better of the sequel books. A lot of fun. Too bad Odd didn’t take Jolie along with him, she was an engaging character.

three and one half stars rating

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ODD APOCALYPSE by DEAN KOONTZ

Next installment of the Odd Thomas series is much better than the disappointing Odd Hours though, not as good as Odd Interlude.  It does, though, take Odd in an intriguing H.G. Wells direction, with elements of time travel/management, eternal youth and mutant creatures from the future. When Odd and Annamarie find themselves staying as guests of an eccentric billionaire and his equally off staff, Odd is soon visited by spirits and off to right wrongs that may have been committed ages ago and somehow frozen in time. But with the appearance of mysterious and very vicious creatures and the increasingly strange behavior by his hosts, Odd finds himself running out of time in a place where time may be both standing still and tearing apart.

I enjoyed the book. The effects of the events of Odd Hours seem to weigh heavier on Odd in this story and though he is witty as ever, there is now a bit more of darkness to him as he tries to come to terms with those effects. The H.G. Well-ish story involving time control machinery created by Nikolai Tesla himself is entertaining and includes a mysterious little boy, mutations that may be from a future time and the ghost of Alfred Hitchcock. It returns Odd to more supernatural events with a Sci-Fi twist and while it doesn’t fit him 100%, it is far more of an Odd Thomas story than the ‘Die Hard At The Beach‘ that was the disappointing Odd Hours. And as far as his new companion, the pregnant Annamarie, I do have to admit her speaking in constant riddles and never really contributing much to the stories is getting tiresome already. Do something with the character soon, Mr. Koontz, or move on. She’s more annoying than intriguing. An entertaining book, but still not quite up to level of some previous entries.

3 star rating

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DEEPLY ODD by DEAN KOONTZ

Deeply Odd takes Odd Thomas back in more supernatural territory with the “Odd One” going up against a group of well organized and powerful demon worshipers led by a deranged, truck driving “Rhinestone Cowboy” intent on a sacrificial slaughter of 17 innocent children, unless Odd, an eccentric old woman named Edie and, none other than, the ghost of Alfred Hitchcock can stop them.

Deeply Odd is a fun book and reminded me of a dark, supernatural Smokey And The Bandit as Odd and Eddie, in her souped up limo, chase the 18 wheeler driving cowboy…who, Odd’s skills tell him is at the center of the planned slaughter…across highways till it’s climactic confrontation in a secluded farmhouse. There are chases, escapes and alternate dimensions and even a soul sucking demon who likes to wear Odd’s face, give or take a few eyes. The book smartly keeps Annamarie on the sidelines, which was fine with me, as the character’s speaking in riddles has worn out it’s welcome and despite the changes in Odd, has returned some of his more ‘buoyant in the face of danger’ personality and charming self-defacing humor. Definitely the best book since the delightful Brother Odd.

three and one half stars rating

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SAINT ODD by DEAN KOONTZ

With his newest and final book in the series, Dean Koontz brings his para-normally gifted hero Odd Thomas full circle. The book opens with Odd racing home to his beloved Pico Mundo to head off the same cult he thwarted in Nevada in the last book. They are on their way to his hometown with mayhem and mass murder on their minds and they know who Odd is and he is among their primary targets. Now Oddie must join forces with old friends and new, to stop whatever fiendish plan these crazed demon worshipers have in mind. But time may be running out in more ways than one, as the closer Odd Thomas gets to home, the closer he feels he comes to finally being reunited with his dead love Stormy, as fulfillment of the fortune teller’s promise from long ago…YOU ARE DESTINED TO BE TOGETHER FOREVER!

Obviously, this book was a bittersweet experience for someone like me who has really enjoyed this series and loved the Odd Thomas character. Thankfully Koontz gives us a very fitting conclusion, in what is one of the series’ best books since the first. It’s no surprise he would bring Odd back to Pico Mundo for the finale and it was great to not only have Odd back on familiar turf, but working again with friends Ozzie Boone and Chief Wyatt Porter. We also have appearances from Odd’s new allies like the mysterious and energetic spinster Edie, who heads a secret organization out to thwart the evils of the world, and the enigmatic Annamarie, but Koontz keeps their involvement to a minimum and let’s Odd Thomas take center stage for his final adventure. The book is a blisteringly fast and engaging read and is a very suspenseful and entertaining story that brings the adventures of the gifted fry cook with a mission to a very satisfying end. Whether he reunites with his lost love or not, is up to you to find out, but Koontz gives this series a great send-off and finishes Odd’s adventures with one of his best. A really good book and a finale that ends the series with the conclusion it deserves. I will greatly miss this character and this series.

four stars rating

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: HALLOWEEN HOTTIE OF 2014…ADDISON TIMLIN!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S HALLOWEEN HOTTIE OF 2014…ADDISON TIMLIN!

This newest installment of Halloween Hotties features our Halloween Hottie Of 2014, the lovely and very talented Addison Timlin, who easily earns this title by appearing in, not one, but, two of MonsterZero NJ’s Best Horror Flicks Of 2014!…and knocking it out of the park with two very different characters in two films with starkly different tones.

(Click on the highlighted links or on the movie posters to read a review of the film’s that have earned her Halloween Hottie of 2014!)

HONORABLE MENTION #1

ODD THOMAS

Who didn’t fall madly in love with Addison’s feisty, adorable and fiercely loyal Stormy Llewellyn? As the girlfriend of the movie’s paranormally gifted hero, Odd Thomas, the brown-eyed beauty practically stole the flick away from its star with her sweet smile, confident smirk and the one-two punch of her in daisy dukes and that yummy Burke and Bailey’s Ice Cream Shop uniform. Stormy stands by her man no matter how weird the situation gets and we can plainly see why Odd believes her to be his one and only…It also helped greatly that Timlin and the perfectly cast Anton Yelchin had a great on-screen chemistry together!

 

Scene stealing Addison Timlin as Odd Thomas’ Stormy Llewellyn!

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And her disturbing second feature…

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THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN 2014

While Odd Thomas was a darkly whimsical, supernatural thriller, this clever and very chilling flick was remake, sequel and homage all-in-one to the 1976 horror classic of the same name. This was a vicious, bloody and straightforward horror that saw Addison as Jami Lerner, a young woman being stalked by a copycat killer imitating ‘The Phantom’ from the original movie…and the real-life crimes that inspired it. This strong-willed woman, played with a quiet strength by Miss Timlin, decides to fight back, though, and the masked hunter becomes the hunted! Addison takes center stage in this intense flick and proves she is leading lady material…and a great final girl!

 

A strong and intense performance by Addison Timlin as The Town That Dreaded Sundown’s Jami Lerner!

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Addison Timlin will be seen again soon as Lucinda Price in the 2015 film Fallen. An adaptation of Lauren Kate’s young adult fantasy/romance novel that will find Timlin’s character caught in a romantic triangle between two very unusual suitors. Whether she is stealing scenes or battling masked psychopaths, Addison Timlin is a beautiful young woman and versatile actress we want to see a lot more of, no matter what the genre!…and a more than worthy Halloween Hottie Of 2014!
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And don’t forget to check out our previous Halloween Hotties focusing on, Briana EviganKatrina BowdenAlexandra DaddarioKatie FeatherstonKatharine IsabelleAmber Heard and Danielle Harris! (just click on their names to go to their pages!)

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2014)

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ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2014)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Only Lovers Left Alive may not technically be a horror film, but it’s main characters are vampires, so, it does fall into the category, though it is more of a character study then a thriller. Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, who is one of the more interesting filmmakers on the indie circuit, the film does deliver a unique and refreshing spin on the tired and overused vampire genre and that alone makes it worth watching for.

The film tells the story of husband and wife Adam (Tom Hiddleston, Loki from the Thor films), a reclusive musician, and scholarly Eve (Tilda Swinton) who are both vampires who have lived for centuries. Adam lives currently in desolate Detroit while Eve lives in exotic Tangier. Both have long given up stalking humans for prey and find other more ‘civilized’ methods of getting their nourishment and have decided instead to pursue a more Bohemian lifestyle, soaking up all the cultural accomplishments of the world that the ‘zombies’…what they refer to normal humans as…take for granted. But when Adam begins to show signs of a moody depression, Eve comes to Detroit to comfort him. But their reunited bliss is short lived as Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) joins them unexpectedly from L.A. and disrupts their happy bubble of seclusion with her uncontrolled behavior.

I really enjoyed this film and it’s portrayal of two beings who spend their eternal life immersing themselves in the accomplishments of mankind such as literature, science and music yet avoid being the neutered fops of the Twilight series. Jarmusch creates two fascinating characters who bathe themselves in the accomplishments of a race that generally overlooks them. But these two still retain their lethality and that’s what keeps this so interesting. They are dangerous creatures that choose not to rule at the top of the food chain, but remain aloof using their extended time here to experience and savor what ‘life’ has to offer, though they are themselves the undead. Obviously their little bubble gets burst by Ava, but it is how they adjust that keeps them so interesting and the film involving. The wisdom of the ages as they simply adapt the best they know how. And the director gives it all a subtle and witty sense of humor, as well. I really liked Jarmush’s use of his locations, from the desolate streets of after-dark Detroit to the seedy alleyways of Tangier where there is a drug dealer on every street. There is some sumptuous cinematography by Yorick Le Saux who captures the bleakness of Detroit’s abandoned cityscape and, ironically, the same ‘danger at every corner’ feeling of Tangier’s labyrinthian alleyways. The two vastly different locations are given a similar look to illustrate these creatures of the night’s choice to live in the shadows even in an exotic country like Morroco. Add to that a haunting score by Jozef van Wissem and you get a film dripping with atmosphere to go along with the engrossing and endearing characters.

And what really makes this film so involving, and Jarmusch’s script sizzle, are two truly wonderful characterizations/performances from his lead cast. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are mesmerizing as the couple married for over a century and who have been in the presence of the likes of Mary Shelley and Nikola Tesla and recollect fondly of these giants as if reminiscing about an old friend or favorite school teacher. Hiddleston gives us a reclusive musician and rock star who is known for his work, but remains an enigma to the world, a musical outlaw that is part Keith Richards and part Howard Hughes. He gives his character the air of a moody genius who never really appreciates his own accomplishments and has a fetish for old guitars. Swinton is the more upbeat and livelier Eve, who unlike her brooding, sometimes distant husband, revels in the culture of what surrounds her. She still enjoys life, despite having lived so much of it and wants Adam to share in her continued enthusiasm. The love between these two seems genuine as brought to life by the actors and they have great chemistry together. Supporting cast are also very good as Wasikowska gives us the untamed, wild-child Ava, who is stuck by way of her immortality in the eternal rebelliousness of youth and there is no malice when she turns their peaceful existence upside-down with her unchecked behavior. Rounding out is a good turn by Anton Yelchin as Ian, a musician and human friend of Adam’s who gets him his guitars and whatever he needs, as the wealthy Adam pays well and John Hurt as Eve’s mentor Marlowe.

This is not a film for everyone, especially those expecting the traditional bared fangs, spilling blood and wooden stakes. This is a really interesting character study of two fascinating, passionate individuals who happen to be vampires. There seems to be an underlying commentary about how the human race doesn’t appreciate it’s cultural, creative and scientific accomplishments and spoils everything it has, including it’s own life’s blood with sickness and disease…something our vampires must be careful to avoid. Overall, I found this an interesting, engrossing, original and sometimes ironically funny vampire film from a filmmaker that has staked out his career on being original… pun intended!

3 and 1/2 fangs.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: ODD THOMAS (2013)

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ODD THOMAS (2013)

Even someone like me who has been watching movies for almost five decades and can be very cynical about them at times can be pleasantly surprised occasionally by a movie I wasn’t expecting much from. Odd Thomas is one of those pleasant surprises. Based on a book of the same name and the following series of novels by Dean Koontz, Stephen Sommers’ adaptation tells the story of Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) an eccentric young fellow who lives in Pico Mundo, a small town in California, and has a very unique talent. He is a clairvoyant who not only sees dead people, but other unearthly spirits as well. Odd Thomas…his real name…uses his special gifts to not only bring justice to those whose deaths are caused by foul play, but to thwart evil in general whenever it rears it’s ugly head. He has a beautiful, loving girlfriend, Stormy (Addison Timlin) who understands his powers and is very supportive and acts as a sidekick. He also has a good friend in the local police chief (Willem Dafoe) who is grateful to Thomas’ ability to find the guilty and prevent heinous acts before they are committed. But there is an evil brewing in Pico Mundo signaled by the appearance of a strange man (Shuler Hensley) surrounded by demons and a rash of nightmares suffered by Odd, and some close to him, that foretell of a coming doom…a doom that even Odd Thomas may not be able to stop. But Odd is going to try, even if it costs him his life.

Despite being a far smaller film than Mummy and G.I. Joe director Stephen Sommers is used to, he brings his creative energy and fine-tunes his over-the-top style to give Odd Thomas a fast paced and eccentric tone that perfectly fits the material. He also creates some very creepy moments with his visual eye and crafts some very tense and suspenseful sequences, especially in the nail-biting last act. But what really made Odd Thomas a special treat for me was the combination of Sommers’ witty script banter and the wonderful work from his cast, especially lead Anton Yelchin. Yelchin creates a very likable hero who is saddled with a great burden and yet, not only uses it to do good and defeat evil, but is actually happy to do so. The banter between he and adorable leading lady Addison Timlin really creates a delightful character dynamic between the two and totally makes the relationship between this strange, yet noble, young man and his spunky and fiery girlfriend, work. It’s very effective and makes you really care about both of them. The same goes when either character is onscreen with Dafoe. The dynamic between the three characters is a delight to watch and really is what makes an already good supernatural suspense thriller even more enjoyable. Timlin and the veteran Dafoe shine in their parts and are great support for what is Yelchin’s show, one he carries to perfection. Shuler Hensley is also creepy and unsettling as “Fungus Bob”…Odd’s name for the man who triggers the events of the film…but he is just the tip of the iceberg and I will say no more as the less you know going in, the better it draws you into Odd’s attempt to uncover the diabolical plot in the making.

Odd Thomas is an odd and off-beat but very effective film from a writer/director usually more at home with bigger, more comic book-style stories. But here he shows he can also take things down a few notches and gives us some chills and entertainment on a smaller and more intimate scale. He can also gives us some very endearing and three dimensional characters to go with his story. And this book-based story of evil, both supernatural and human created, and the young man who stands in it’s way, is very entertaining if anything. A really fun and very plesant surprise. Shame this flick is getting dumped unceremoniously onto home media when so much junk gets a theatrical release.

Check out my review of Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas book series HERE.

3 and 1/2 baseball bats.

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