BARE BONES: GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE (2021)

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GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE (2021)

Sam (Karen Gillan) is an assassin for The Firm, and after her most recent assignment goes awry, is tasked with retrieving some money stolen from them and killing the man, David (Samuel Anderson), who took it. She finds he stole the money for ransom, to get his kidnapped daughter Emily (Chloe Coleman) back and Sam proceeds to go rescue her. Along the way the money is destroyed, David dies and now The Firm wants Sam dead. With Emily in tow, Sam is forced to team with her estranged assassin mother, Scarlet (Lena Headly) and a sisterhood of assassins (Carla Guigino. Michelle Yeoh and Angela Bassett) Scarlet once belonged to, to face down an army of killers sent her way.

Netflix streaming movie is stylishly enough directed by Navot Papushado (Rabies) from a script by he and Ehud Lavski. It’s an entertaining enough movie, though a bit of a mess and clearly is a strong case of John Wick meets The Professional, with a little Tarantino thrown in for good measure. The cast all seem to be having a good time playing a host of oddball characters and there is plenty of gunfire, but it gets tiresome after a while. We’ve been watching these slow motion gunfights and stabbings since John Woo made them popular in the 90s and these hip, hyper-violent crime flicks are starting to get played out. They’ve become their own subgenre. Gunpowder Milkshake has a fun neon colored look to go along with all the CGI blood and gun flares and while it’s never boring, it’s never all that involving either. An OK waste of time if there is nothing else to watch and Gillan does make Sam a likable killer with a sarcastic sense of humor and a heart. Also stars Paul Giamatti as Firm head Nathan.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: LAID TO REST and CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2

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The Laid To Rest flicks are contemporary slashers that have a bit of a following in the horror community. So what better choice for a MonsterZero NJ Saturday Night Double Feature than both of these gory slashers from director Robert Green Hall…

LAID TO REST (2009)

Flick opens with a pretty young woman (Bobbi Sue Luther) awakening inside a coffin. She has no memory and no idea how she got there. Before she has a chance to figure things out, she is attacked by a deranged killer (Nick Principe) with a chrome skull mask and a nasty serrated knife. She barely escapes with her life and is pursued into the night by this madman. She picks up a few allies along the way, in friendly local, Tucker (Kevin Gage) and nerdy, Steven (Sean Whalen), who try to help her escape him. The killer relentlessly pursues her and those trying to help her, murdering anyone that gets in his way. Who is he and why does he want her dead?

Gory slasher is written and directed by make-up FX man and musician Robert Green Hall and is a perfect showcase for his PostHuman FX special effects shop. First and foremost, this is a very gory flick and that gore is very well designed and rendered. Gore fans will enjoy the inventive and very realistic looking kills. It’s not an overly scary film, but there is some intensity in the attack and chase scenes. Chromeskull is an imposing villain and there are some likable characters to fear for, such as our final girl, dubbed “Princess” by Tucker, and Tucker himself, of course. The film moves fast, looks good on what is probably a very modest budget and there is plenty of action. To a degree it’s also a chase film, as we move from location to location with Chromeskull in hot pursuit. Princess is chased from one house to another, makes her way back to the funeral home and then finally to the blood-spattered conclusion at a gas station/convenience store. It’s an economical 90 minutes and delivers plenty of the blood and gore fans look for. If there is any flaw the film has that holds it back a bit, is going all out with the gore from moment one. By starting right off with the brutality and extreme bloodletting, by the time the third act rolls around, we are getting a little numb to it. Otherwise, this is a brutal, bloody and entertaining slasher flick from Robert Green Hall.

The cast are all fine here. Curvy and cute Bobbi Sue Luther makes a fine heroine as “Princess.” Her real identity is kept secret and she is a strong and resilient woman, once her situation sinks in and she decides to survive. Kevin Gage is good as local man Tucker. A likable man just wanting to help out a young girl in trouble. Whalen is also solid as the whiny, timid Steven. The recent death of his mother makes him especially sensitive to the death and murder going on around him. Nick Principe, who was the pig-masked killer in Madison County, is an imposing killer as Chromeskull. We don’t get too much background on him, but he is effective. There are some familiar faces playing killer fodder. Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey is Tucker’s ill-fated wife, legendary Richard Lynch is a funeral director in league with Chromeskull, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010’s Thomas Dekker is Tommy, a convenience store customer and Johnathon Schaech is Tucker’s ill-fated brother in-law. A good cast.

Maybe not a classic, but Laid To Rest is a solid enough slasher that gets the job done. Its extremely gory and it’s inventive and graphic kills are exceptionally done. It may pull the trigger on it’s brutality and graphic demises a little too soon, though, where a build up would have been more effective. Otherwise, it has an effective killer, a likable cast and moves quickly, and at times, with intensity.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated a gory 3 (out of 4) Chromeskulls.

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CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2 (2011)

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Sequel finds that Chromeskull has a well financed and equally disturbed support team run by a man named Preston (Brian Austin Green) and a woman named Spann (Danielle Harris). They resuscitate the masked killer and have a team of surgeons restore him as best as possible. Preston tracks down and kills “Princess” (now Allison Kyle), while Chromeskull sets his sights on new girl Jessica (Mimi Michaels). Jessica is brought to his new lair and so is Tommy (Thomas Dekker), the only survivor left from the last movie. As Chromeskull prepares to play with his new toys, dissension between Spann and Preston threatens to tear this evil organization apart, while the police close in.

Flick is also directed by Robert Green Hall from his script with Kevin Bocarde. It’s a bit of a letdown after the first flick. The impressive gore and kills are still there in abundance, but putting Chromeskull in charge of a sinister James Bond meets Jason Voorhees organization, complete with minions, takes away a lot of the killer’s mystique. He’s a mystery in the last film, now we may find out a bit too much. The bickering between Spann and Preston isn’t interesting, as we know where that will lead, and having the flick set basically in the same location for 90% of the movie, also makes it very stagnant. The last flick was basically one long chase. Here, it’s basically a standstill with victims sitting around waiting for their teased demise…which, for some, doesn’t even come. There are some effective bits, but it never really feels like a slasher flick. That’s one thing the last film did well. 

The cast are fine. Nick Principe is effective again as Chromeskull, but it’s how he’s used and what he’s involved in that looses the character a lot of steam. Thomas Dekker gets a bigger role and is good as Tommy, now the hero of the flick. Mimi Michaels is really good as final girl Jessica. She’s pretty and sweet and unfortunately, isn’t given much to do but cry and look scared for most of the movie. The one setting keeps her put till the end and only gives her one scene where she shows some resilience. Green and Harris are going through the motions as Chromeskull’s feuding minions and Johnathon Schaech appears again, this time as an F.B.I. agent.

Second flick is sadly a disappointment from the fun and gory first flick. While the inventive and well-rendered kills remain, the setting and story not only keep the film grounded in one spot, but strip Chromeskull of a lot of his mystique by turning him into a James Bond villain, complete with pontificating minions. The rivalry between his first and second in-commands adds nothing and only succeeds in taking time away from the final girl, who basically sits around crying the whole movie. Despite the end setting up a an interesting possible third installment, Chromeskull has yet to return.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) Chromeskulls.

 

 

 

 

 

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-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY (2019)

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FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY (2019)

Comedy/biography is produced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and tells the true story of Saraya-Jade Bevis aka WWE Superstar Paige (Florence Pugh), who was raised in Norwich, England with a Mother (Lena Headly), Father (Nick Frost) and brother (Jack Lowden), who were all professional wrestlers. The film chronicles her wrestling upbringing, to being chosen to join WWE development in NXT, and finally her rise to the main roster and becoming the youngest WWE Diva’s Champion in history on 4/7/14.

Cute, if not cliché, bio-pic is written and directed by actor/director Stephen Merchant. Merchant delivers a fun and sometime heartwarming movie, though one that really cranks up the often told sports underdog scenario. Here, to try to achieve her dream of being a top WWE Superstar, Paige is portrayed as having to fight every step of the way to gain acceptance among her trainers, peers and the NXT audience. Adding to that a conflict with her wrestler brother Patrick (Lowden), who didn’t make the cut. In actuality, the real Paige was very popular in NXT and even had a successful run as their Women’s Champion before being called up to the main roster on the post-Wrestlemania XXX episode of RAW, where she faced Diva’s Champion AJ Lee in an impromptu title match. For cinematic purposes, it’s presented as a CInderella-like opportunity that comes out of nowhere, granted by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, whereas in real life she simply earned her promotion with her success in NXT. Obviously, much of Paige’s story is embellished to sell the Rocky-like underdog tone of the flick and a lot of the focus is also on her relationship with her eccentric family. Pugh makes for an endearing and plucky heroine and is surrounded by a good supporting cast, especially Nick Frost as her wrestler father, Vince Vaughn as her trainer and, in a fun bit of irony, current WWE Superstar Thea “Zelina Vega” Trinidad as former WWE Superstar AJ Lee. A fun enough movie and probably more so, if you aren’t a fan and am going in without prior knowledge of Paige’s career.

Personal Note: As a WWE fan and a big fan of Paige herself, my review may be more critical of the dramatic license taken with her story, as well as, it’s failing, though understandably, to acknowledge the bittersweet reality that Saraya-Jade “Paige” Bevis was forced to retire, four years after her victory over AJ Lee, at the age of 25 due to a career ending neck injury. She does still work with the WWE to this day in management positions on their Smackdown show.-MZNJ

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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REVIEW: THE PURGE (2013)

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THE PURGE (2013)

The Purge is one of those movies that comes up with a fairly interesting premise then does something incredibly routine with it. The story takes place in the near future where crime in the United States is almost non-existant thanks to “The Purge”, one night a year where for 12 hours between 7 P.M. and 7 A.M. all crime including murder is legal and anyone who wishes to vent their internal anger and hatred can do so…while those who can afford it, hunker down in their fortified homes and watch it on TV. It’s seen as a release of negative emotion and a way to thin the poor and middle class who can’t afford home lock down systems as sold by James Sandin (Ethan Hawke). James and his family live in a very rich neighborhood in a very large house which is the envy of even their wealthy neighbors. James fully supports The Purge as he feels it makes the country a better place to live and also makes him able to afford his large house through the sales of his home security system designed to keep The Purge out and those that can afford it, safely in…or so he thinks.

This is where writer/director James DeMonaco fails to make good use of his premise. Sandin and wife Mary (Lena Headey), gadget loving son Charlie (Max Burkholder) and hot teen daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane), complete with school girl outfit, get ready for the event to begin and not long after it does, a man (Edwin Hodge) shows up at their door bloodied and begging for help. Sensitive Charlie let’s him in and soon the house is surrounded by those pursuing him, a masked group of well armed youths who give the Sandins the choice of sending their prey out or they will come in and kill everyone. A good portion of the film is the moral dilemma that splits the family, should they hand over the man who Charlie is helping hide in their home, or do the right thing and try to protect him. It’s no secret that the thugs outside eventually will have reason to come in and start the blood flowing. And that’s kinda it.

The film takes an interesting premise and settles for basically being yet another home invasion/siege film where a family sheltered from violence is forced to use it to save their own lives. And the slight twist in the last act, and the stupid subplot involving Zoey’s boyfriend, really doesn’t do anything to make the film any more interesting. It’s just another routine variation on the latest horror trend which is masked kooks trapping people in their own house that seems to have started with the much better The Strangers and the French thriller Them (Ils), thought you can even trace it back to John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13 from 1976. DeMonaco directs the film competently and there is some tension and suspense, but we’ve seen it all before right down to the dumb decisions characters make in order to keep the plot moving.

The cast are fine with Hawke giving his usual sturdy performance though Headey is wasted as Mary, mostly looking upset or crying for the most part. Burkholder can be a bit annoying as Charlie and Adelaide Kane, whose character disappears for long stretches without explanation, reminds me of a young Eliza Dushku before she developed the intensity she showed in Buffy. Not as impressive, but she might have potential. As for our villains, only the leader (Rhys Wakefield) takes his mask off and is a stereotypical arrogant, elitist yuppie with his group being your typical masked giggling and skipping loonies we’ve seen a lot in films recently. Maybe if they weren’t so busy acting like giggling, skipping children, they wouldn’t get gunned down so easily by a family that’s never had to kill before.

Overall The Purge is not a terrible movie, it’s just one with a good idea that limits itself to a very routine and thus very forgettable use of that idea…and so it’s a very routine and thus very forgettable movie. It was however a box office hit, so a sequel is on the way. Maybe they will make better use of their concept this time… maybe…

2 and 1/2 bullets!

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