HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WIND CHILL (2007)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

bars

WIND CHILL (2007)

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

A young woman (Emily Blunt) takes a ride share with another student (Ashton Holmes) on her way home from college on Christmas break. The pair are off to a rocky start, especially when he takes a side road off the main highway and through the woods. The two are run off the narrow road by an oncoming driver and are now stranded deep in the woods and in deep snow. That’s not the worst of the girl’s problems, as not only is she suspicious of her driver’s true intentions, but there may be something unnatural lurking in those bitter cold woods.

Flick is directed by Gregory Jacobs from a script by Joe Gangemi and Steven A. Katz. The movie starts out interestingly enough with Blunt’s unnamed young woman, being suspicious of Holmes’ unnamed young man, as his conversations with her reveal he has not been honest with his fellow student. As the film progresses and they are trapped together in the stranded car, with no heat, no food, no water and in extreme cold, we start to learn more and more about his true intentions. It’s enough to give this film tension and make it a bit unsettling as it is. Jacobs and the writers then add a supernatural element with mysterious figures lurking in the woods and a few corpses, both animated and not. It’s all very spooky and adds an interesting caveat with stalker-ish guy and snooty girl bonding over mutual fear and concern. Aside from a few briefly seen supporting players, this is a two person show and both perform well. Blunt is strong as the somewhat difficult yet likable “Girl” and Holmes is appropriately a little off as the “Guy” who lies his way into a ride with the pretty student from his class. If anything holds this unnerving little movie back a bit, it’s that it takes a while to “warm up” and sympathize with our lead characters, with him being an awkward stalker and she difficult and rude to him, even before she starts to suspect their ride comes with ulterior motives. While ambiguous for quite some time, we do start to get clues as to what is going on here supernaturally. It is satisfying and spooky in a Twilight Zone kind of way, but at the same time, a little disappointing considering the build-up had us expecting something a bit more bizarre. It still works and effectively portrayed, even if familiar.

Overall, this is an enjoyably spooky flick even if what it turns into is something a little more routine than we hoped for. It is still well done and our leads help us overcome somewhat negative characters to like and sympathize with them. The film is shot nicely, with good use made of the wintery woodland locations and it has some nice atmosphere without relying on violence or gore to give us the chills. Flick is currently streaming free on Crackle, or as a cheap rental on Amazon Prime. Supporting cast includes Ned Bellamy, Martin Donovan and Chelan Simmons.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) rolls of duct tape, which adds sealing malfunctioning car windows to it’s 1001 uses.

 

 

 

 

 

**************************************************

bars

REVIEW: A QUIET PLACE (2018)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

bars

A QUIET PLACE (2018)

Our tale opens in the year 2020, just 89 days into some kind of apocalyptic event involving aggressive predators who hunt by sound and are virtually un-killable. We are introduced to the Abbott family, who have been surviving by living a life of silence at their remote farmhouse and raiding local stores for supplies. It is on one such supply run that little Beau (Cade Woodward) makes an innocent mistake, with a toy spaceship he got from a store and the Abbott’s suffer a devastating loss. The film then picks up about a year later when mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt) is pregnant again and father Lee (John Krasinski) is trying to make life comfortable and safe for his family, including Marcus (Noah Jupe) and his deaf older sister Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who blames herself for Beau’s death. One night, as Evelyn is about to give birth, a series of events separates the family members and the creatures are brought to their doorstep. Will the Abbotts be able to survive as their worst fear comes true?

While this is as mainstream as horror gets, it is exceptionally well directed by star Krasinski, who also co-wrote with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. We’ve seen critters that hunt by sound before (The Descent), but never have we seen such a detailed world, crafted out of necessity, around their existence. The Abbotts walk barefoot and use trails of dirt to get from place to place. Their house has painted squares on the floor to mark the floor boards that don’t squeak. They eat on lettuce leaves instead of plates. As Regan is deaf, they all speak sign language and that helps them communicate quietly. They are an everyday family in a horrible situation and we like them and thus as they convey a constant sense of alertness and tension, we are tense, too. Krasinski keeps that intensity tight as little Beau’s demise illustrates what happens with the slightest sound…and that no one is safe…so we are startled whenever a sound is made. The director knows this and sets us up by the foreshadowing of sounds and accidents to come. Yes, this is a very manipulative flick, but in a very good way. We know that the nail pulled up will cause trouble and we damn well know Evelyn is not giving birth at a convenient time…and babies make lots of noise, too. And just so we never forget these beasts are dangerous, we get a few bloody reminders of what a mess they can make. Sure, the film can be predictable, but the director uses that against us and very well. There are some plot holes. The Abbott house is filed with items that look like they could fall at any moment…way too many tchotchkes for a family trying to be quiet…and just where are they getting electricity if the world is decimated…a generator?…and don’t generators make a lot of noise? Still the film is constructed expertly to get reactions out of the audience and it does. The sense of isolation also works very well, too, in keeping us on edge. The creatures are kept in shadows till the last act and are very effectively designed when we finally see them. They remain scary even when out of the dark. Their exact origin is kept ambiguous, but newspaper clippings in the Abbott house give us some information to make our own conclusions. The quiet nature of the film also gives opportunities for some fun jump scares, but not the cheap kind. There are legitimate scares here, even if we do feel Krasinski has been pulling our strings like a bunch of popcorn munching marionettes.

The small cast are great at conveying a loving family in a constant state of fear. Despite a lot on his plate, Krasinski the actor delivers a strong and caring father in his Lee Abbott. He will do anything for his family and his technical know-how helps create a safe place for them…as safe as it can be. A very likable man. Emily Blunt is solid as Evelyn. True, she becomes more of a damsel in distress in the second half, but portrays a strong woman nonetheless and one still wounded over the loss of one child, despite the impending birth of another. Deaf actress Millicent Simmonds is great as Regan. She is a strong-willed young girl, though one who feels directly responsible for the death of her little brother. She gives a very pained and emotional performance using only her body language and eyes. Noah Jupe is good as younger brother Marcus. Marcus is a frightened boy, especially after witnessing the death of his sibling, but will learn to be strong in a dangerous world. Finally cute little Cade Woodward made an impression as Beau. He doesn’t have a lot of screen-time, but made enough of an impact that his loss is very traumatic for the audience. A great cast that realistically portrays a loving family. Krasinski and Blunt are married in real life, so it probably wasn’t too much of a stretch.

Whoever says PG-13 horror is weak is proven wrong here by John Krasinski. In the right hands it can be a scary and suspenseful time and A Quiet Place sure is. True, this is a horror film for folks who don’t normally watch horror, but that’s just fine. This longtime horror fan had a fun time and really appreciated director John Krasinski’s manipulative and skilled direction. He gets the most out of his scenario and used some of it’s predictability to get us unsettled. Sometimes it’s just as nerve-wracking to know what’s coming as it is when not. The flick’s just bloody enough to get it’s point across and has some fearsome critters to add validity to our featured family’s fears. Well done and highly recommended.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 …SHHHHHH!…They’ll hear you!

bars

BARE BONES: THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR (2016)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

huntsman-winters-war

THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR (2016)

Follow-up to Snow White and the Huntsman, is both prequel and sequel. It starts out telling the origin of The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and takes a page out of Frozen’s playbook by also introducing The Ice Queen, Freya (Emily Blunt), who is sister to evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron). We then jump seven years later, now after the events of the last film, where The Huntsman is sent to find the whereabouts of the magic mirror. He not only finds it, but that his wife/lover, Sara (Jessica Chastain) is still alive and that The Ice Queen has not forgotten him. Worse still, she needs the mirror to revive her sister and take over the land.

Mundane attempt to cash in on Snow White and the Huntsman‘s unexpected success, is directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan from a messy script by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin and without star Kristin Stewart. Nicolas-Troyan has a decent enough visual eye, but fails to bring any energy or excitement to the proceedings. Chris Hemsworth does return and gives it his all and is surrounded by a trio of lovely co-stars in Blunt, Theron and Chastain. The added babe power doesn’t hide the fact that this is an incredibly routine fantasy that tries to add interest by luring in the Frozen crowd with Blunt’s icy Ice Queen. It’s not a bad film and is technically well made, it’s just that nothing stands out or makes it in anyway involving or unique. It’s a typical fantasy quest plot with the usual sword and axe play and offers nothing to make it stand out or memorable. At least Theron dialed it down a bit this time. Poor Chris Hemsworth can’t seem to find any success outside of playing Thor and it’s too bad, he is a charming and very likable leading man. Obviously, his three beautiful co-stars have all done better work too and probably did this for the paycheck. A passible evening on the couch, but nothing you’ll remember the next morning. Also stars a returning Nick Frost and narration by the incomparable Liam Neeson.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

REVIEW: SICARIO (2015)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

sicario

bars

SICARIO (2015)

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

Sicario is an intense and gripping crime thriller that opens with an FBI raid on a house owned by a suspected drug lord and the gruesome discovery made within. Not only does by-the-book agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) discover bodies filling the walls of the house, but a booby trap claims the lives of two officers. Wanting to catch those responsible, Kate is asked to join a special ops team with mysterious government operative Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and even more mysterious ‘advisor’ Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). As the operation to bring down drug lord Manuel Diaz (Bernardo P. Saracino) and his boss begins and Kate is taken deep into the Mexican underworld, she starts to question who her new partners really are and what their real agenda is.

Written by Taylor Sheridan and directed by Denis Villeneuve, this is a very involving and sometimes shocking thriller about an idealistic FBI agent who may not be ready to deal with the realities of the war on drugs. We are taken inside this special ops team knowing as little about these men as she does and watch as she is drawn into a world she isn’t prepared for. Not only are the people they are pursuing capable of horrible atrocities, but her mysterious team members aren’t above breaking rules and crossing lines to accomplish their objectives as well. The line between good guys and bad guys becomes increasingly blurred and Kate is our voice of reason being drowned out in a world were reason and morality have long since been abandoned. The deeper she gets, the more she realizes she is in a world she doesn’t want to be in. As for her new team, they seem to have their own agenda and methods, that Kate is no longer sure she wants to be a part of. It’s a rude awakening for her and Villeneuve opens our eyes along with her. It can be a very intense ride and there are a few punch-in-the-gut scenes as true agenda’s and identities are revealed. This is a top notch thriller with some nail-biting action and one that takes us into world’s we don’t see on CNN or even NCIS for that matter…a world where there are no heroes or villains, just players in a brutal game. It also takes the time to give us a glimpse of what life is like for those that live closest to it. It’s an intense, suspenseful and well-crafted thriller that takes a noble woman and places her in a violent world without rules that she is not prepared to live in. It’s harrowing and skillfully told journey.

The cast are top notch and all do good work. Emily Blunt again shows she is a versatile actress who can take on tough physical roles with dramatic intensity. Her Kate is a woman with both a sense of duty and morals who is forced into a world were the book is thrown out the window along with morality and even the law she has sworn to uphold. She teams with men no better than those she vowed to bring to justice and Blunt plays the toll on Kate well. Josh Brolin is strong as the team leader shrouded in mystery. From the beginning we know there is more to this man than meets the eye and Brolin keeps pace as Sheridan’s script slowly unravels the layers of secrecy to let us know who the man really is and what his true agenda entails. Del Toro really impresses with a character that is soft spoken one minute, yet has no hesitation in torturing a suspect if it means getting what he wants. He is shrouded in mystery as is Brolin, but the man we are finally to discover is one you may not expect. The film switches focus to him a bit in the last act and it is here we discover his true identity and his real mission and it will really tear Kate apart when this strange man she starts to bond with, is unmasked. We also have a great supporting cast including Victor Garber, Marvel familiar face Maximiliano Hernández, Walking Dead‘s Jon Bernthal and Burn Notice‘s Jeffrey Donovan.

This is a strong thriller that can hit hard at times and takes you on a journey into a world of questionable morals and tactics with a character who has always played by the rules and tried to do what’s right. She is surrounded by men with their own methods and agenda’s operating in another world beneath the one she knows. There is some taunt suspense, some gripping action and some disturbing moments as Agent Kate Macer is drawn deeper into a war we only see the surface of on TV. There are some messages here, but they are not intrusive and the acting really  makes these characters work, especially when the layers are slowly peeled off and true natures are revealed. A highly recommended thriller.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 and 1/2 bullets.

raid rating

 

 

 

bars

REVIEW: EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

Edge_of_Tomorrow_Poster

bars

EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014)

Edge Of Tomorrow is a completely derivative yet, actually pretty enjoyable Sci-Fi/Action flick starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. The film is based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s Manga All You Need Is Kill and tells the story of a not too distant future where an alien invasion force has landed and taken a strong foothold in Europe. The beings called ‘mimics’ seem to anticipate the united armed forces’ every move until a victory in Verdun, France, led by Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), gives the Earth a glimmer of hope that the enemy can be defeated. A U.S. military PR man Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is brought in to sell the world… though not sure why the world would need to be ‘sold’ when the situation is so dire… on a massive armed attack on the beaches of France by covering the attack from the front-lines to which the cowardly Cage protests and even tries to blackmail his way out of. This gets him arrested and busted down to foot soldier to now to join the invasion in actual combat… where he is killed within minutes. But, Cage wakes up from death the morning before when first being sent to his new squad and relives the day till being killed again… only to awaken 24 hours earlier once more. With full memory of the previous days, he gets better and better at staying alive until he runs into Sgt. Vrataski who knows what’s going on… it’s happened to her too! His encounter with the blood of a special alien drone known as an ‘Alpha’ has given Cage the alien ability to re-set time and now teamed up with “The Angel Of Verdun” Cage must keep dying till the two successfully destroy the hidden alien power source and stop the enemy before all is lost. But, the re-set power is not permanent and one of Cage’s deaths could be his last… if his own forces don’t lock him and Vrataski up for being crazy first.

Sure this flick is a Groundhog Day, Starship Troopers, Battle: Los Angeles, and Aliens thrown in a blender with a bunch of other movies but, under Doug Liman’s direction it’s actually a lot of action-packed fun. The action is staged well and the film moves at a good, steady pace and really avoids becoming the mess it could have been with such a convoluted story. The SPFX are flawless and while the design of the film gives us little new, it is suspenseful and has enough of a sense of humor about itself to get past any familiarity. We also get some likable characters to become endeared to and they are well cast. Sure we may not like the cowardly Cage early on but, the more he grows as a soldier and a person the more we like him and are right there with him when he graduates to full blown hero. The time travel elements are also kept pretty basic and while there are always questions when time travel is concerned, Edge keeps the glaring problems to a minimum by not getting too over enthusiastic with it’s use and while certain story elements will fold under too much scrutiny, the film moves fast enough to keep you from thinking too much about it. Liman also gives us some intensity but, keeps the tone of the film from getting too dark and the mix blends just right to keep things on an entertaining level. The script by Christopher McQuarrie and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth never gets too complicated and is smart enough to change up the formula about half way through to avoid predictability or monotony even though we still have a good idea how things will work out. The only real stand-out flaw is a an ending that is a little too neat and convenient in order to keep this flick a crowd-pleaser but, it’s not bad enough to not go along with it or, seriously hurt the movie.

A big plus is a good cast that perfectly understand the material. Cruise has fun playing a sniveling coward for a while before transforming more into the action hero he is renown for. And once that happens he is as solid as always. Blunt is obviously enjoying being able to play such a badass but, one that doesn’t loose her humanity or femininity. Vrataski is tough but, very likable and sexy and we certainly wouldn’t mind a post battle celebration in her bunk after the war. We also have fan favorite Bill Paxton as a scenery chewing Southern Master Sergeant who leads Cruise’s platoon of misfits into battle over and over and refuses to believe him when Cage has said he’s done this before…. which leads to another small peeve, that in such a dire situation and despite how much foresight Cruise’s Cage seems to have, no one ever gives him or Vrataski even the slightest benefit of the doubt that they can end the war and defeat the invaders. No matter how much info they seem to know, they are completely dismissed. True, it’s a far fetched story but, the world is about to be lost you’d think someone would at least entertain their notions except for his oddball platoon, who are the ones least likely to believe him… especially when they have a physicist to back them up… but, even the physicist is cast aside despite his wealth of knowledge. Makes no sense.

But, despite it’s flaws and being basically a mash-up of things we’ve already seen, Edge Of Tomorrow is an entertaining 113 minutes and was far more satisfying then expected. Go in not expecting much and you might actually come out surprised and having had a good time. A fun Summer movie.

3 and 1/2 sexy sergeants.

edge of tomorrow rating

bars