BARE BONES: THE BOOKSELLERS (2019)

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THE BOOKSELLERS (2019)

Fascinating and amusing documentary focuses on the rare book world in New York City and the people who collect and sell them. The documentary by D. W. Young is narrated by indie film queen Parker Posey and takes us on a tour of, not only a variety of rare book shops, but an array of eccentric and interesting people who collect and sell rare and out of print books. It does a good job of capturing these people’s passion for the printed page and gives us a nice sense of the history behind rare book collecting. It also touches on the effect of corporate chains like Barnes and Noble on the mom and pop book store, as well as, the expansion of this overlooked sub-society with the inclusion today of more women and minority collectors.

It’s not for everyone, it’s a bit slow moving and maybe ten, or so, minutes too long, but for those interested in underground and off the beaten path sub-cultures, this is a very entertaining look at at world the exists within one of the greatest cities on Earth. If you like documentaries and are always looking for a new and interesting subject, this now streaming on Amazon documentary might be worth your time. If you do check it out, watch through the credits for a funny post credits anecdote.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: LOVE, ANTOSHA (2019)

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LOVE, ANTOSHA (2019)

Love, Antosha is a heartwarming and heartbreaking documentary on the life and career of actor Anton Yelchin. A career and life cut way too short by the tragic accident that took his life in 2016. The documentary details his growing up wanting to be an entertainer and career as an actor with interviews from his parents Irina and Viktor, along with his friends and co-stars, like Star Trek’s Chris Pine and Jennifer Lawrence. It shows a passionate young man, who was tireless in both his pursuit of his dreams and in his acting, once that career ignited. Unknown to many, he suffered from cystic fibrosis and he battled it’s effects constantly while he continually worked. Despite his ailment, he starred in 69 film and television roles, from the age of 11 till his untimely death at only 27 years-old. Garret Price’s documentary portrays a man loved by his family and co-stars, a man whose passions went from acting to directing to music and photography. The documentary is filled with interviews from many celebrities who all paint a picture of an energetic and driven young man, but also a loving, quirky and kind one that made friends everywhere he went. Yelchin is most recognized for portraying Ensign Chekov in J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot series, but showed great versatility in a variety of independent films as well. A talent sadly gone far too soon. Documentary also features narration from actor Nicolas Cage reading words written by Yelchin himself.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: HAUNTERS-THE ART OF THE SCARE (2017)

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HAUNTERS-THE ART OF THE SCARE (2017)

Haunters is a fun and sometimes disturbing documentary focusing on the folks who set up extreme haunts at Halloween…and some of the individuals who go to them. Writer/director Jon Schnitzer interviews some small time extreme haunt makers whose mission every Halloween is to terrify people as much as possible. One such entrepreneur, Russ McKamey, runs a haunt that may cross some lines, but Schnitzer let’s you decide if that is so for yourself. He shows how the people work hard to put these attractions together and then shows us the eager customers willing to be bound, gagged, blindfolded, manhandled, dunked under water and covered in all sorts of who-knows-what. It’s hard to tell who is more disturbed, the haunt creators, or their excited to be frightened clients. The interviews and footage are equally fun and disturbing and also give us a look at what effect this horror hobby has on the makers and their families. While you consider if these haunts are unethical or dangerous, you have to at least appreciate the creativity and effort put into them. A fun and fascinating documentary from Jon Schnitzer.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK (2016)

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FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK (2016)

This is a heartfelt and fun documentary about the legendary Leonard Nimoy and the equally iconic character that made him famous. It’s told through the eyes of his son Adam Nimoy, using all sorts of footage and interviews of his father and many of those who worked with him. It touches on Nimoy growing up in Boston and deciding to become an actor and then his path to playing one of the most famous characters ever on Star Trek, Mr. Spock. Adam Nimoy relates his father’s story…and that of his Vulcan counterpart…with a genuine affection and seems to have a good time going back in the past to tell it. Adam also doesn’t shy away from the less glamorous parts, such as his relationship issues with his famous father, Nimoy’s drinking, as well as, his own substance abuse problems. If the buoyant tone of this flick falters a bit, it is here during these segments. The story is what it is, though and Adam Nimoy doesn’t hide some of the more bitter moments behind the larger than life character his dad is known and loved for. Ultimately we get a portrait of a ambitious man, who had his flaws, but worked hard, genuinely loved his fans and family and rediscovered some of the relationships damaged by his successes and excesses, in time to repair and enjoy his family life before his passing in 2015. If you a fan of Star Trek, Spock and Nimoy, watching this documentary is the logical thing to do. Not perfect, but very sincere.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL and THE NIGHTMARE

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ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL (2015)

Offbeat comedy/drama tells the story of teen Greg (Thomas Mann) who has little ambition other than to make movie parodies with his friend…or ‘co-worker’ as he likes to refer to him…Earl (RJ Cyler). Greg’s parents (Connie Britton and Nick Offerman) force him to spend time with classmate Rachel (Olivia Cooke) who has been diagnosed with leukemia. Soon a special bond forms between them that changes Greg’s life as her condition worsens and his feelings for her deepen.

Written by Jesse Andrews and directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (The Town That Dreaded Sundown), this is a charming and sometimes very poignant story of love and friendship formed under unusual circumstances. As in most indie films like this, there are some very eclectic characters who are nonetheless appealing and Gomez-Rejon gets good performances out of our leads and support…though Offerman seems to be playing the same oddball he plays in everything he appears in. It’s sentimental at times and funny at others and obviously, there is a degree of sadness given it’s title. If the film stumbles somewhat, it’s in that, at times, it is a little too weird or too quirky for it’s own indie good. Random model animation sequences and Greg’s overly weird parents are sometimes distracting more than accomplishing anything to serve the narrative. Otherwise this is a sweet, sad and sometimes very funny movie.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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THE NIGHTMARE (2015)

Documentary tackles the subject of sleep paralysis, a state where individuals are stuck in-between being asleep and being awake, can’t move their bodies and suffer from extreme hallucinations such as shadow-like intruders. Director Rodney Ascher talks to eight different subjects gathering there stories of extreme cases of this state which has been often mistaken for paranormal, even extraterrestrial activity…and some believe it is.

While the subject in itself is interesting, the documentary stumbles a bit which keeps it from being really compelling. First off, the re-enactments of the hallucinations/events all look the same and utilize the same imagery and techniques so repetitiveness sets in quick when dealing with eight subjects with multiple stories. Another thing is that the subjects chosen all tell similar stories, so despite how intriguing it is, the stories themselves also start to get repetitive quickly. By the third story, from the same person, tedium starts to set in. The documentary also doesn’t seem to arrive at any real conclusions as those interviewed have varied results as to dealing with this phenomena. Some of the subjects seemed to have solved the problem by themselves, commanding the ‘intruders’ away, or by interpreting it as the presence of a dead loved one. Other subjects seem to have their own issues apart from sleep paralysis, so one must wonder if it is something caused by emotional stresses. Still other subjects truly believe that in this state they can see and be seen, by other dimensions, so there is that. We also never talk to any professionals on the subject, so we never get any other side to the story than those telling their own tales. A counterpoint or professional opinion would have added some nice contrast and given us some kind of scientific analysis to consider along with the testimony of Ascher’s subjects.

As the actual phenomena has not been fully explained, there are different points of view and while it is fine that Ascher let’s us decide for ourselves, it also leaves us feeling a bit unsatisfied and like not much was accomplished. Interesting at times, but wears out it’s welcome about an hour in and the lack of professional opinions/diagnosis leaves a void in the storytelling.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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REVIEW: KILLER LEGENDS (2014)

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KILLER LEGENDS (2014)

Just a short while ago, I took a look back here at a very disturbing 2010 documentary called Cropsey about the real-life disappearances of five children in Staten Island and the urban legend it spawned. Now from Chiller TV, the director of Cropsey Joshua Zeman, is back with a new and equally unsettling documentary taking on four more classic urban legends and the real-life crimes that inspired them. Zeman and researcher Rachel Mills travel across the U.S. and dig deep to find the truth that inspired some of America’s most chilling campfire tales…and truth is always scarier then fiction.

Zeman and Mills first travel to Texarkana to investigate a series of brutal murders of teens at a popular make-out spot that occurred in 1946 and inspired not only the urban legend of the “Hookman” but the chilling horror classic The Town That Dreaded Sundown. We get another chilling investigation into a series of attacks and murders by a man dubbed “The Phantom”, a crime spree that was never solved and even more unsettling is how the town is still haunted by these horrific events decades later and it has provoked some equally disturbing customs from the residents.

Zeman and Mills then travel to Houston, Texas to investigate the murder of a little boy poisoned by tainted Halloween candy and quite possibly the case that started the popular fear-inducing Halloween urban legends of candy filled with glass, razor blades and poisons…of which there are actually no recorded incidents aside from this sad tale. We learn of the death of 8-year-old Timothy O’Bryan in 1974 and the intense police investigation which culminated in the arrest, conviction and eventual execution of the “Candyman”, the man who poisoned the Pixie Stick that lead to Timothy’s death and the start of these scary Halloween tales. Even more shocking was the man’s name was Ronald Clark O’Bryan…the boy’s own father. Proving the most frightening ghouls and goblins are the ones living in our very own backyards.

The duo next take us to Columbia, Missouri to tackle the popular urban legend of babysitters being stalked by unknown fiends with the heartbreaking rape and murder of young Janett Christman in 1950, who was sexually assaulted and strangled while babysitting for a local family. We are treated to an investigation that finds how the popular urban legend was fueled by the possibility that the same man may have committed a number of similar crimes and was never caught…though some unfortunate individuals were blamed for his heinous acts. Even more chilling is their research points to a man who was questioned, but never connected to the crimes…a man some of the victims knew as a neighbor and friend. This segment was particularly disturbing to think that someone got away with murdering these poor young women and actually might have lived among them in plain sight.

Our final segment is sure to send goosebumps rippling up and down arms with a story touching on the fear of clowns and some really creepy clown cases and tales from the windy city of Chicago. For decades Chicago has suffered reports of clowns driving around in white vans trying to lure children inside and even more disturbing is that there are actually police reports and eye-witness accounts of this occurring…and the reports suggest there were more than one of these ‘clowns’ stalking the city. Thankfully, no children were abducted…that we know of. It’s a case that has never been solved. We also get an in-depth look into a city that was home to the world famous Bozo The Clown show and to perhaps the spookiest clown creep of them all…John Wayne Gacy, who was convicted of killing over 30 people. Where did the fear of clowns originate?…Chicago apparently!

All these stories are given some very thorough investigations by the documentary filmmaker and his researcher. We get some bone-chilling facts, shocking crime scene photos, interviews with those involved and visits to some of the actual locations which these real-life crimes and occurrences took place. It’s very informative and the information provided can really be unnerving as we find the true start to some popular urban legends and the movies they inspired. And Zeman and Mills take us on this journey of discovery, eagerly trying to get to the bottom of these cases from which some of our culture’s scariest bedtime stories have spawned. They dig deep and it’s not only fascinating, but also quite horrifying that, in most cases, the perpetrators were never caught, or worse still, the wrong person was charged or suspected of the crime. And what better way to start an urban legend than an unsolved real incident! Zeman and Mills are more then happy to give us some hauntingly all-too-real facts that will make one sleep with a light on, far more effectively than any movie or bedtime story. A very effective and disturbing documentary that chills and informs equally.

3 and 1/2 stars.

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