BARE BONES: KATE (2021)

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KATE (2021)

Netflix streaming action flick finds assassin Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) working in Japan for her handler Varrick (Woody Harrelson). After killing a target in front of his own child, Kate feels it’s time to retire. During her last mission, she finds she’s been poisoned and with 24 hours to live, she sets out to find those responsible and get revenge.

Film is directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan from a script by Umair Aleem and is a routine action flick with a plot that’s been used before, such as in both versions of D.O.A. There are plenty of bloody action scenes and chases and a top-notch performance by Mary Elizabeth WInstead, but it’s all too familiar and forgettable. The Japanese locations provide a cool look to the proceedings, but it’s not enough to make it feel fresh. Nicolas-Troyan has a good visual eye, but doesn’t give any life to the material. Also, why is it when there is a strong female character in a film like this, do they need to add a precocious child for her to babysit, so she gets to show her maternal side? Did we really need Yakuza brat, Ani (Miku Martineau)? Overall, a forgettable, routine action flick far undeserving of it’s talented leading lady, who is the only reason to watch this for.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE THING 2011 and THE THING (1982)

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In celebration of snagging what appears to be the last Target exclusive NECA MacReady action figure on the shelves, I’ve decided to make a double feature out of Carpenter’s classic and it’s prequel…

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THE THING (2011)

John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of my all time favorite movies. It’s a classic and arguably Carpenter’s masterpiece. So, I tried to put the audacity aside that someone would attempt a prequel and went in trying to view this film on it’s own merits as much as possible. Ultimately, since it’s trying to be part of that film’s story, you kind of have to compare and my mind constantly made such comparisons all throughout. Overall, I wasn’t that impressed, but also didn’t hate it and over time, it has grown on me as a sort of amusing companion piece. Still, obviously far from a classic like it’s predecessor.

2011’s The Thing takes place in the Norwegian camp that is seen briefly in Carpenter’s film in smoldering ruins. It details their finding of the alien ship and it’s passenger in the ice and it’s subsequent escape and infiltration of the camp and assimilation of various members. The Norwegians are joined by some American’s including Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Paleontologist Kate Lloyd, Eric Christian Olsen as scientist Adam Finch and Joel Edgerton as helicopter pilot Sam. Aside from Ulrich Thompson as lead scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson, the rest are interchangeable and generic characters that serve mostly as body count. Only Winstead really tries to make Kate a more rounded character, but she isn’t given much to do but look concerned, or scared, or both, till the last act.

This is where The Thing fails to assimilate the 1982 perfectly as it’s title creature would. Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. fails to generate much suspense or create the kind of paranoia that fueled the 82 classic. He does create a bit of a sense of dread, but for the most part, he directs this “prequel” competently, but very by-the-numbers. There’s very little of the kind of tension Carpenter built during his film, even though the situation is basically the same. Even if he was trying to craft a film that was more it’s own “thing” he still doesn’t have the directing chops to really pull it off. The film has a nice visual style, there are some well done action sequences and they did do a good job of matching sets and events to link up with the film this is a prequel to, but it still doesn’t come close to Thing ’82.

Heijningen doesn’t get that much help out of his actors either. Other than Winstead and Edgerton, most of them pretty much perform on ‘paycheck’ levels and there are none of the memorable characters like Carpenter’s eclectic bunch. Well, at least there should be some cool monster stuff, right? Not quite. All this talk of practical effects during production was nonsense, as 90% of what we see is CGI, or enhanced with CGI, and it’s only a few levels about your average SYFY channel movie. So even the monster evokes no emotion, because it looks like what it is, phony. And to be honest, the designs lack the impact of Rob Bottin’s now legendary work. Even at their weakest moments, Bottin’s creature transformations generated awe or disgust. You’d think they’d take advantage of almost 30 years of technological advancement in movie effects, yet the creatures have little impact. And, speaking of our alien star, we are never given much more information about the creature than we already know from Thing ’82. They totally blow the opportunity to add to the creature’s mythos.

I’ll admit, there were a few scenes I liked, especially toward the end where the camp is thrown into all out combat with our computer generated invader and there are some clever bits like one involving tooth fillings. I also liked Winstead’s Kate as our lead. I think Winstead is capable of strong roles and it’s too bad she’s wasn’t given stronger stuff till the last act here. She makes a credible heroine. The end credits nod to the Carpenter flick is the best stuff in the movie. At least the lead-in stuff worked very well and the film ends on a spooky note as we know what comes next…a far superior movie.

In conclusion, I didn’t hate this flick, but would only recommend it as an amusing curiosity or a mindless popcorn monster flick as long as you forget about it even trying to stack up to the Kurt Russell classic. The Thing 2011 did have almost impossible shoes to fill and while it falls far short of the mark, it’s also not the complete disaster it’s made out to be. Best “thing” about the movie is that it is a lead-in to Carpenter’s flick, so you can always watch that afterwards.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 (out of 4) flame thrower wielding cuties!

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THE THING (1982)

Arguably John Carpenter’s best film and his masterpiece, The Thing  was a remake of Howard Hawks’ 1951 classic The Thing From Another World, which was itself based on John W. Campbell’s story Who Goes There? Instead of using the 1951 film’s walking, blood sucking alien vegetable, he went back to Campbell’s story which featured an alien creature capable of imitating whatever it fed on.

Carpenter’s film opens with an isolated American research station in Antarctica being buzzed by a Norwegian helicopter that seems to be trying to gun down a lone sled dog. The incident results in the helicopter being destroyed and both raving occupants being killed, one by the station commander Gary (Donald Moffat) in defense of his crew. Now the team including helicopter pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell) are stuck with a bizarre mystery and the surviving sled dog. When MacReady and Doctor Copper (Richard Dysart) investigate the Norwegian camp, they find it destroyed, it’s occupants dead and a huge hollowed out block of ice…not to mention a burned corpse of something barely human. The investigating of the evidence indicates the Norwegians found a strange ship in the ice and brought a specimen back to their camp that apparently was not dead when thawed out. The real nightmare is yet to come as the Norwegian dog reveals itself to be something quite unworldly and that an alien creature with the ability to absorb and become it’s prey may now be among them…or worse, may be one or more of them already. The paranoia and terror grows as the team try to discover who may be a creature in disguise and the creature feeds their paranoia and seeks to eliminate any of the men with the scientific knowhow to unmask it. Can those still human stop it and if they fail, what will happen to the rest of humanity?

The Thing is both a masterpiece of suspense and tension, as well as, of visceral horror. Carpenter, along with Bill Lancaster’s script, perfectly creates the paranoia of not knowing who around you is human and who is not. The setting of isolation is made all that apparent as Carpenter seals his characters in an ice and snow surrounded maze of hallways and dark rooms where the 12 men are trapped with something very inhuman and they can’t even trust each other, as it could be anyone. The team all suspect each other, but as is human nature, turn to those they like for support and turn on those they may have not liked or not gotten along with before. We have 12 men who are social outcasts thrust into a situation where no one is coming to their rescue and they are forced to not only try to save themselves, but literally save the planet, as their failure to stop this creature will unleash it upon an unsuspecting world. Just so we fully understand the enormity of this creature’s threat, we are treated, via make-up FX master Rob Bottin (and Stan Winston who created the dog kennel creature), to some of the most gruesome creature transformation sequences ever filmed. Bottin convinced Carpenter to not go with a standard true form for the creature design, but an organism that is constantly changing and different once revealed and is made up of parts of all the beings it has absorbed during it’s journey through space. The results are visually horrifying and still hold their full impact even today. All this is brilliantly filmed by cinematographer Dean Cundey and accented by a haunting score by Ennio Morricone…who later voiced disapproval of how Carpenter used it. It is said the prominent electronic bits were actually written by Carpenter, though a lot of Morricone’s music is still used.

As for the human players, obviously this is Kurt Russell’s show, as he plays a man who is reluctantly forced to try to save a world he seems intent on hiding from and does so, honorably and selflessly. With 12 characters not everyone is given a lot of attention, but the cast all handle their roles well in presenting a bunch of eclectic social misfits who would rather be in the antarctic than with the rest of the world. The standouts aside from Russell’s MacReady are Dysart’s Dr. Copper, Moffat’s Gary, who crumbles when he really needs to take charge, forcing MacReady to lead the rest, Keith David’s Childs and Brimley’s scientist Blair. Ironic, as Brimley has voiced his complete distain for the film. Maybe he should have read the script before signing on? Rounding out a solid cast are Richard Masur as Clark, David Clennon as stoner Palmer, Charles Hallahan as the meek Norris, Joel Polis as the quiet scientist Fuchs, T.K. Carter as the smart-ass cook Nauls, Thomas G. Waites as cowardly radioman Windows and Peter Maloney as complainer Bennings. Carpenter’s wife at the time, actress Adrienne Barbeau, also has a vocal cameo as the voice of MacReady’s chess computer.

The history of this film is as legendary as the film itself. The flick was critically panned for it’s gruesome gore FX and grim tone and audiences stayed away…not me, though, I saw it at least 3 times back in the day…and it has taken decades for it to finally be recognized as the masterpiece and classic it truly is. Simply a great horror/sci-fi film that has yet to be equaled.

-MonsterZero NJ

A classic 4 (out of 4) Things!

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REVIEW: BIRDS OF PREY (2020)

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BIRDS OF PREY (2020)

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

The full title of this latest DC comics flick is Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, though they could have saved some poster space and just called it Harley Quinn, as it is far more her movie than the title crime fighting group’s. The actual Birds of Prey are hardly in their own flick and Huntress, especially, has extremely minimal screen time. Messy plot finds Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) having broken up with the Joker and now with a target on her back, as she’s no longer protected by being The Joker’s girlfriend. She’s particularly pissed off sleazy crime boss Roman Sionis aka Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), who will spare her life if she steals back The Bertinelli diamond, which is now in the hands of young pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco). Cain is being watched over by detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), who is being fed inside information from within Sionis’ gang by his singer/driver Dinah Lance aka Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). Throw in a mysterious vigilante called Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who is killing off mobsters across Gotham. Of course, all paths are destined to meet and we have basically the mess it sounds like.

Flick is directed by Cathy Yan, who thinks style is simply cranking out a famous pop culture song every five minutes and bathing everything in neon lights and glitter. It makes the mess of a script by Christina Hodson all the more obvious in how superficial it really is, despite all the attempts at feminist commentary about female empowerment. Messages that would be far better presented if the story or characters had any real substance or development. A good example of a film that tries too hard and gives itself far too little to work with. Harley Quinn is the only character that has some weight, but only because she was already established in another movie. Why DC can’t do anything really special with this character theatrically is a mystery. The current DC animated series with Quinn (voiced by Kaley Cuoco) is a naughty, bloody hoot with tons of sarcastic wit and delivers the girl power messages slyly along with all the fun. It’s far better written than this under-baked flick. At least if the action was fun and fast moving, it could make this more watchable, right? Unfortunately the monotonous fights wear out their welcome, just as early as the soap opera level melodrama about broken homes, being orphaned and murdered parents. Yes, these origins are comic book tradition, but come on, do something innovative with them. This is the same old tired stuff with glitter thrown over it to make it appear new. It’s a thin coat of paint over a thin script for characters and actors that deserved far better. The story is also told in a Pulp Fiction-esque habit of going back and forth, until it settles into the last act and Tarantino used it far more effectively. Here it just makes a jumbled mess seem even more jumbled. Shame, there might have been a real blast of a movie in there somewhere, but director and script let our clown queen and her new buds down.

For the most part we have a good cast, though. Robbie is simply a great Harley Quinn in desperate need of a far better movie. She’s fun, energetic and gives us a tough, sexy, smart-ass bad girl that makes the best of a bad script. She makes every line work better than it should and livens up most of the drab, cliché scenes whenever she can. A good actress and a pro. Same can be said for Ewan McGregor having a blast as the thinly written Roman Sionis. He gives the sometimes prima donna villain some menace and the right amount of-over-the-top to vastly improve what he was given to work with. Rosie Perez is good as Montoya, a cop crapped on by the system one too many times, but still trying to do her job. As for the actual Birds of Prey, beautiful Jurnee Smollett-Bell does give her Dinah Lance/Black Canary a little heart and substance and is a strong women in need of more screen time. She’s better than her thinly written part deserved. As a big fan of the versatile Mary Elizabeth Winstead (just watch her in Smashed and Faults), it’s rare to say she didn’t seem right for a part, but the actress doesn’t quite click as Huntress. Maybe it’s because she’s one of the worst written characters and has barely any screen time to be developed. Her anger issues are the brunt of jokes in a script that wants us to respect women. Rounding out is Ella Jay Basco as orphan and delinquent Cassandra Cain. She’s an annoying plot device in a flick that has enough problems without having an annoying child as a plot device. Harley gets saddled with her and it’s funny how a film wanting us to believe in female empowerment turns one of it’s strong female leads into a stereotypical babysitter/surrogate mom. At least Basco tries to give her cliché character some fire and spirit.

Sadly another wasted theatrical venture by one Harley Quinn. Another great portrayal by Margot Robbie goes wasted again with a muddled mess of a script and ‘too hip for it’s own good’ direction. Some messages about female empowerment are buried under a cliché and superficial flick that wastes a good cast, and despite a lot of chases and action, is actually very by-the-numbers once you peel away all the loud pop culture radio hits and all the glitter and neon. With a wittier script and a director who didn’t bury what could have been some nice underlying weight and substance under a lot of shallow glitz and glamor, this could have been as good as the current animated cartoon, which fires on all the cylinders that this flick fails to.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 (out of 4) anti-heroines who, again, deserved a much better movie.

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013)

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A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013)

Decided to take this old review out of mothballs and reprint it here. Was I the only person to have fun with this flick?-MZNJ

A Good Day To Die Hard has a lot of problems. The story is convoluted, the villains are weak and when the action stops there isn’t enough strong drama to keep us interested. Thankfully, the action rarely stops and it is quite amusingly over the top. This entry has John McClane (Bruce Willis) traveling to Moscow to try to see his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney) who has been arrested for murder. But what McClane doesn’t know, is that Jack is a CIA agent and involved in a mission to bust a Russian millionaire (Sebastian Koch), with ties to terrorism, out of jail to get the 411 on his partner…who also has his own plans to bust him out of jail. It’s no secret that McClane gets in the middle of things and once again becomes the fly in the ointment of all this Russian cloak and dagger. The result is the destruction of half of Moscow and what’s left of Chernobyl to boot.

The story by Skip Woods is as much of a mess as it sounds, but I still had a blast watching the father and son duo wreck the former Soviet Union to stop the bad guys. As directed by John Moore, the action scenes are ridiculously over the top and it’s still fun to watch Willis kick butt, even though his one-liners are getting tired and he gives you the impression that so is he of all this nonsense. How many times CAN one man get into so much trouble unintentionally? At least it’s part of James Bond’s job. It’s the stuff between the action that has us looking at our watches, as the dialog is weak and I can’t understand how a guy who is such a kick-ass hero can be hated so much by his kids. If my dad whacked terrorists on a regular basis and constantly blew stuff up, I’d probably think he was pretty cool. The villains never seem threatening enough to make us believe they stand a chance against the McClane family. I still enjoyed seeing them try, only to get their asses handed to them by Willis and Courtney, who could have a future as an action star. If there is a Die Hard 6, I hope they give daughter, Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) a catsuit and a gun to join in the fun. Why not? Go in with moderate expectations and turn off the brain and enjoy the fireworks, because that’s basically what this movie has to offer and on that level it can be a fun matinee, if you just don’t look for another classic like the original installment.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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SLAY BELLES: HEROINES OF HOLIDAY HORROR!

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SLAY BELLES: HEROINES OF HOLIDAY HORROR!

The holiday season is here and sometimes it seems there are more Christmas themed horrors than ones set on Halloween. But if there is a gift these holiday horrors bring, it’s a bevy of cuties and foxy final girls to warm our hearts like chestnuts roasting over an open fire. So without further ado, here are some of holiday horror’s hottest heroines!…

(Click on the highlighted titles and movie posters to get to our reviews and on the gallery photos to get a better look at the slay belles!)

Black Christmas (1974)

Black Christmas is one of the original modern slasher films and graced us with the beautiful Olivia Hussey as final girl Jess and a pre-Superman Margot Kidder as sexy, saucy Barb!

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Silent Night, Deadly Night is another Christmas horror classic and this film has it’s shares of beauties as well. Sexy blonde Tara Buckman plays killer Billy’s mom Ellie, Toni Nero plays his work crush, Pamela and legendary scream queen Linnea Quigley plays the hot ill-fated babysitter Denise!

Black Christmas (2006)

Black Christmas 2006 wins the award for most holiday honies in one movie. Remake of the 1974 classic has a bevy of beautiful sorority sisters to melt any snowman…

SILENT NIGHT (2012)

This quasi-remake has a few cuties of its own. It has My Bloody Valentine 2009’s Jaime King as pretty deputy Aubrey Bradimore, Scott Pilgram’s Ellen Wong as adorable police station receptionist Brenda and Zombeaver’s Cortney Palm as ill-fated adult movie actress Maria.

BETTER WATCH OUT (2016)

We finish up this look at festive final girls, Christmas cuties and sexy slay belles with a look at one of the latest to join the holiday fun, Olivia DeJonge as embattled, yuletide babysitter, Ashley from the twisted Christmas thriller, Better Watch Out!

HAPPY HOLIDAYSfrom MONSTERZERO NJ’S MOVIE MADHOUSE

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006) and SILENT NIGHT (2012)

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BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006)

Remake, of sorts, of the holiday slasher classic finds a group of bitchy sorority sisters under siege by a demented serial killer and his sister. William Lenz (Robert Mann) escapes from a mental hospital and heads to his former home which is now a sorority. He is joined by his equally psychotic sister Agnes (Dean Friss) to stalk such cuties as Lacey Chabert, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Buffy alumni Michelle Trachtenberg and Katie Cassidy. Blood and body parts fly as they decimate the sorority sisters, one by one.

Flick is written and directed by X-Files writer Glen Morgan and turns what was a stylish and mysterious slasher into a blunt and over-the-top one. Bob Clark’s original was simple, had it’s bloody kills and never let us know who the killer really was, adding an eerie quality. Here we are introduced to our psychos right away with continual flashbacks and we get some really gory death’s and some very drunk and bitchy sorority girls to inflict them on. There is little or no suspense, though the action is fast paced, there is some entertainment to be had and the gore is well rendered. The girls are certainly Christmas eye candy and Katie Cassidy does make a good final girl even if Morgan’s script gets silly at times. Worth a look, but hardly a classic.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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SILENT NIGHT (2012)

This remake of the 1984 Silent Night, Deadly Night, barely qualifies as such, as it takes half the title and a few scenes and primarily does it’s own thing. Here Christmas is approaching and a pretty deputy (Jaime King) is hunting a sadistic murderer in a Santa suit and mask, who is killing the bad folks of Cryer, Wisconsin in ho ho ho-rrible ways.

Flick is directed by Steven C. Miller from a script by Jayson Rothwell and takes all the fun out of the holiday themed slasher concept. It’s an ugly and sleazy flick that has it’s homicidal Santa killing, bad kids, lecherous priests, drug dealers, porn film makers and their scantily clad actresses. It makes this small town look like quite the sleaze pit and gives us few to root for as the victims are all unlikable for the most part and we meet them like three minutes before they die. They’re just Santa fodder and not characters we care about. At least in the original the characters were only questionably bad, regular people and not societies dregs which evoke little sympathy. Also stars Malcolm McDowell as the town sheriff, Zombeaver’s Cortney Palm, and Scott Pilgrim’s Ellen Wong as the police station receptionist. An ugly and boring movie.

-MonsterZero NJ

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REVIEW: 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (2016)

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10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (2016)

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I’m not a big fan of the found footage, monster movie darling that is Cloverfield. It had some cool FX and the monster stuff was entertaining, but the acting was poor, the characters were super annoying and the shaky-cam way over-done. Now we have 10 Cloverfield Lane which may…or may not, be related to that film.

The story finds pretty Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) running away from her engagement and getting into a car accident in the middle of nowhere. She awakens to find herself in some kind of bomb shelter, her wounds treated, but apparently a prisoner of a man who introduces himself as Howard (John Goodman). Howard tells her he was on his way home when he found her and that there has been some kind of attack. Everyone outside the shelter is probably dead and the only way she and another ‘guest’ Emmet (John Gallagher Jr.) are going to survive, is if they remain in the shelter with him. Michelle thinks he’s crazy, though there is compelling evidence to believe something has occurred outside in the world. Yet every time she starts to believe that there may be some truth to his claims, she discovers something that may also indicate that Howard is a psychopath and she and Emmet’s lives may be in grave danger. Where does the true danger lie?…outside…or locked inside with the possibly unstable Howard?

I won’t say if this is truly connected to Cloverfield or not, but will say you will be getting a very entertaining and suspenseful thriller from the script by Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken and Damiene Chazelle. The film is tensely and atmospherically directed by Dan Trachtenberg and really keeps us guessing as to whether Howard is really a looney or are Michelle and Emmet the two luckiest people at the end of the world. We get hints that something awful has happened above ground and yet every-time we start to believe Howard, we get thrown another clue that he may indeed be off his rocker. Which is it, savior or psychopath? Did he really rescue Michelle, or was he actually the cause of her accident? It’s a fun movie and Trachtenberg makes good use of his claustrophobic setting of the bomb shelter with the characters inside appearing to bond and yet being very suspicious of their host. Michelle never really comes to trust Howard, even when she sees direct evidence that danger may actually lurk outside the airlocks. It’s almost a cat and mouse game between the two, as she plots various escapes and yet Howard always seems to be one step ahead or able to cast doubt on what awaits outside. It’s actually very entertaining for a movie that takes place 90% in such a confined space. There is some clever dialog, a dark sense of humor and we are delightfully kept guessing till the final moments as to whether Howard is psycho or hero…and the answer still may not be what you expect. What is less surprising is what we finally get once we get back to the outside world. It wasn’t as impressive as the suspenseful build-up deserved. It’s kind of been done before and while it is well done and entertaining, it’s still a little disappointing.

What really makes this flick click so well are the performances. Mary Elizabeth Winstead once again proves she is a terribly underrated actress and gives a great performance as Michelle. Winstead paints a portrait of a gusty, resilient young woman and makes really good use of the depth the script gives her. Michelle is a really smart and strong heroine for us to root for and Winstead makes her a good match for Howard. As Howard, Goodman is not far behind performance-wise. He is really good at keeping us guessing whether the man is eccentric friend or dangerous foe. He makes Howard really likable and a bit sympathetic at times and then menacing and downright scary at others. He and Winstead play off each other well and we look forward to the confrontation we know this is all leading to. Our third cast member John Gallagher Jr. is likable as the simple but kind Emmet. He basically gets caught in the middle between the domineering and strange Howard and the ever distrusting Michelle. He’s a far more trusting sort than she is and also believes he saw something going on before begging Howard to let him in. Gallagher plays well Emmet’s desire to believe both his companions, though Michelle is wearing him down despite his also believing that something is amiss above ground. Excellent work by a very good cast.

Overall, I liked this thriller a lot. It was suspenseful, clever, well-acted and did deliver…something…when all is said and done. Whether using the word Cloverfield in the title is simply a marketing ploy, or if this flick is a distant cousin of that popular flick, is irrelevant. This is a highly entertaining thriller that keeps you guessing and gives some strong characters to pit against each other in a battle of wills that may…or may not…be between the last people on Earth. There is also some strong cinematography by Jeff Cutter and a great score by Bear McCreary to add to the atmosphere the film has.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 amazing actresses.

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CLOVERFIELD RELATED FLICK GETS A TRAILER AND POSTER!

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We’re not sure if it’s a prequel, sequel, spin-off or bastard cousin, but whatever this flick is in relation to the cult hit Cloverfield, it now has a poster and a trailer! Mystery film is directed by Dan Trachtenberg, stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman and opens on 3/11/16!

-MonsterZero NJ

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REVIEW: FAULTS (2015)

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FAULTS (2015)

Faults is an intriguing and entertaining little movie from writer/director Riley Stearns. The story opens with cult expert Ansel Roth (Leland Orser) as his life is falling apart, his latest book has tanked and he owes some shady characters (Lance Reddick and Jon Gries) a lot of money. He sees hope in turning things around when a desperate couple (Beth Grant and Chris Ellis) come to him to for help to rescue their daughter Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) from a cult oddly called “Faults”. For a price, Roth kidnaps the young woman and locks her in a hotel room to ‘deprogram’ her. While it seems to be going well at first, events begin to spiral out of control and the line between deprogrammer and subject blurs as does the one between deprogramming and brainwashing…but who is brainwashing who?

I enjoyed this movie. Not only do we get some offbeat characters that populate Roth’s world at the moment, but some interesting questions are posed and there are some nice twists and surprises. Claire appears content and happy when kidnapped by Roth and her parents seem a bit overbearing and controlling. It makes us question the validity of what is transpiring and if her parents have a right to force a full-grown, 28 year-old woman to adhere to their will against her own. We also question whether a man who has lost control over his own life is in any position to try to undo the effects of the cult’s influence, when he seems to be having his own issues. That’s also the fun of this film, which is played seriously, but has a darkly comic atmosphere to it. It gives us things to question, but just when we think we’ve got things figured out, it throws us some twists and curves. There are some nice surprises here and being in the hotel room with our characters in such an intimate setting, sometimes makes us too close to realize there are other things going on, until it’s too late…just like poor Ansel. Tables are turned and characters are not who they seem and Ansel is too focused on his own problems to see it…and it takes the audience awhile to realize it, too, though we do catch on long before our beleaguered ‘expert’. A clever and sometimes downright devious story that is intriguing to watch unfold and is well directed by Stearns.

This wouldn’t have worked as well without a good cast and that it has. Leland Orser really brings Roth to life as a man who is beaten-down and hitting rock bottom and who sees an opportunity to turn things around…so much so, he doesn’t see what’s really going on in front of him. Mary Elizabeth Winstead turns in another strong performance…she was so good in Smashed…that proves she is an underrated actress who really needs more recognition for her work. Her Claire is sweet and a little confused at first, but the more we get to know her, the more we realize she’s far more in control than she let’s on. It’s worth watching alone to see her slowly turn the tables on the man who is supposedly there to ‘fix’ her. Reddick and Gries are good as the oddball thugs Roth owes money to, for his self published failure of a book, and Grant and Ellis shine too, as Claire’s outwardly typical Middle American parents with their own hidden facets. A very good cast.

I definitely recommend this indie flick for those who like something offbeat and intriguing. The script is clever and the performances all strong. It’s an odd little movie for sure but, it’s involving and the story is refreshingly different. Definitely worth a look!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 kidnapped Claires (for her own good, of course!).

faults rating

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: A.C.O.D., IN A WORLD…, BAD MILO and CBGB

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ACOD

A.C.O.D. (2013)

Not bad, but, not overly good either. Comedy takes a look at the now grown-up first generation raised on the effects of widespread divorce and it might have been more fun if it actually went somewhere and leading man Adam Scott wasn’t so annoying a character and dull an actor. There is a talented cast, such as Amy Poehler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Catherine O’Hara and with such talent you just expect more then we get in this mediocre comedy.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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IN A WORLD… (2013)

Lake Bell makes her directorial debut in this mildly amusing story of a voice coach (director, Bell) who wants to follow in her father’s (Fred Melamed) footsteps and enter the male dominated movie trailer narration business. There are some nice moments, a few solid laughs and Bell gives a spunky performance but, the story ultimately doesn’t really go anywhere and the film’s tone is rather flat and needed more energy to get us really involved. Original plot idea, though, I’ll give it that.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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bad milo

Bad Milo (2013)

Absolutely awful horror “comedy”  written and directed by Jacob Vaughn about a small creature living in a man’s (Ken Marino) colon that is a product of his subconscious rage and comes out to savagely murder anyone who causes him stress. Really!… that’s what it’s about! Crude, vulgar and completely unfunny. Also Peter Stormare and stars Community’s Gillian Jacobs. Pure crap but, at least the make-up FX guys come off with some of their reputations intact.

1 and 1-2 star rating

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cbgb

CBGB (2013)

How can you take the story of such an iconic place and turn it into such a pretentious and dull movie? Tries so hard to be hip and cool, that it forgets to simply be good… or that the story of this legendary club pretty much tells itself without all the self-indulgent ‘look what I learned in film school’ hocus-pocus. Worse of all, it succeeds in making the great Alan Rickman seem boring. At least there is a cool soundtrack and I still have my memories of actually being there which, I’m not sure co-writer director Randall Miller ever was. If he was, he completely missed the point of the place by making such a pretentious film about it and it’s infamous founder/owner Hilly Kristal.

2 star rating

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