BARE BONES: A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS (2017)

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A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS (2017)

Sequel takes place at Christmas time with our three Bad Moms, Amy, Kiki and Carla (Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn) getting visits from their own moms (Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon respectively). This turns their lives upside down and threatens to ruin their holidays.

Second flick is again written and directed by Scott Moore and Jon Lucas and sadly lacks the energy and buoyant fun the original was, while doubling up on the melodramatic schmaltz. The first flick was routine and predictable, but it had attitude, some cleverness and a charming cast. This holiday installment is flat, rolling out all the “Christmas in ruins” movie clichés without any ingenuity and the vulgarity lacks the wit that made it work the first time around. It replays a lot of the shtick of the original movie and even with the addition of the bad grand-moms, it comes across as stale. If there is a redeeming quality, it is the cast once again shines and makes the best out of the weak material with Baranski, Hines and Sarandon playing their thinly written parts well. Veteran actresses who deserved better material, as do the Bad Moms trio, Kunis, Bell and Hahn, who also give it their all. Sequel co-stars Jay Hernandez again as Jessie, Peter Gallagher as Amy’s dad and a funny cameo by Kenny G. Maybe they should have taken a little more time developing this instead of rushing it out a mere 15 months after the first flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: BAD MOMS

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BAD MOMS (2016)

Pretty mother of two, Amy (Mila Kunis) has had enough! She works hard at her job, drives the kids to school, does their homework and makes dinner. Her lazy immature husband doesn’t help and even gets caught having a virtual affair with a woman online. Amy, along with new friends and fellow moms Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and Kiki (Kristen Bell), decides it’s time to take a break from and have a little fun!

Written and directed by Scott Moore and Jon Lucas this is a routine and predictable comedy, but thanks to a witty script and charming cast, it is a lot of fun. The film has a buoyant mood to it, as Amy throws her responsibilities aside…and her cyber-cheating husband out…and decides to live life for herself for a bit. Sure the situations that result are totally routine, such as wild parties, picking up the hot single dad (Jay Hernandez) in a bar and starting up a fierce rivalry with the snooty PTA head (Christina Applegate), but Kunis is a delight in the role, even if she comes across as a little too young to be a mother of two kids close to their tweens (She’s 33, so it works). There is some vulgarity, but it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and is witty enough to work and be funny. The supporting cast are also having a blast too, especially Kristin Bell and it translates to the audience even if you have seen it all before. A routine but fun, funny and sometimes very sweet comedy. Added bonus is the interviews with the actresses and their real moms during the credits.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: JUPITER ASCENDING, HOLLOW and COHERENCE

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JUPITER ASCENDING (2015)

Although credits claim it is actually written and directed by The Wachowski’s (The Matrix), watching this colorful mess implies they were simply making it up as they went along. The plot, if there really is one, is vaguely about a young Earth woman, with the porno name of Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), who is actually alien royalty and being hunted by her mumbling rival, Balem (a horrible Eddie Redmayne) and protected by alien warrior, Caine (a blonde Channing Tatum in hilarious elf ears). The film is tedious, talky and very hard to follow, though, when there is action, it is spectacularly done. The FX are really well orchestrated, too, but used to such ridiculous ends at times, it’s hard to remain impressed by them. Simply an overambitious mess with Redmayne being possibly one of the worst villains in movies history.

2 star rating

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HOLLOW (2011)

Written by Matthew Holt and directed by Michael Axelgaard, this British found footage flick has an interesting concept, but is a slow moving bore. The film entails a trip by two couples (Sam Stockman , Emily Plumtree, Matt Stokoe and Jessica Ellerby) to a remote farmhouse near an old tree with a bizarre history. It is said that for centuries, couples have been found hanging from the tree and that there is an evil lurking in the ruins nearby. So of course, this is the perfect vacation spot! Obviously, one of the vacationers is a camera-phile and everything is being recorded. And what they capture is a lot of dull exposition and couple bickering till the film actually decides to become a horror movie in the last 10 minutes. A snoozer with one or two creepy moments at best. At least the British birds were cute.

2 star rating

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COHERENCE (2013)

Written and directed by James Ward Byrkit, this 90 minutes of pretentious drivel tries to stretch a Twilight Zone plot into a full length movie. Film has a bunch of yuppie hipsters getting together for wine and cheese and self-important conversation when a comet passes over and they soon find out that there are duplicates of their house and themselves all over the block. What we then get is a bunch of quantum physics techno-babble and then fearful panic. For a bunch of science-minded, supposed intellectuals, they then begin to do some stupid stuff. It all adds up to a lot of boring talk and a very shallow attempt at doing what Dennis Illadis’ +1 did a lot better. Stars Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s Nicholas Brendon in an annoying role as the least helpful of the bunch.

2 star rating

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-MonsterZero NJ
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REVIEW: TED 2 (2015)

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TED 2 (2015)

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

Not being a fan of Seth Macfarlane’s Family Guy, I was pleasantly surprised by his 2012 talking teddy bear comedy Ted. It’s not a great movie by any stretch but, it was actually very funny at times and had a surprising amount of heart. The film was a huge hit and now the ‘Thunder Buddies’ are back!…and if you liked Ted, I find it hard to believe you won’t like this.

Ted 2 opens with the self-aware bear marrying his girlfriend and fellow cashier from work, Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), while John (Mark Wahlberg) is still suffering from the effects of his divorce from Lori. The film then jumps a year later where the honeymoon is over and Ted and his bride can’t get along. Taking advice from a co-worker, Ted decides the best way to fix the marriage is by having a baby…something he is physically incapable of doing. At first…in a hilarious series of segments…he tries to get a sperm donor. When they find Tami-Lynn barren from all her years of drug use, they try to adopt. Ted, though, is viewed by law as an object and therefor not eligible to adopt. Ted and John must now, somehow, get the courts to acknowledge Ted as a living person and so, they hire pretty, young lawyer Samantha (Amanda Seyfried) to try to prove it. Meanwhile, Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) is back and with the help of a toy company CEO, plots to see Ted’s efforts fail so they can have the talking bear in their clutches without consequence.

Macfarlane is back in the director’s chair and once again co-writes with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild. The result is pretty much the same with a plethora of toilet humor, stoner jokes and pop culture references which play out during the thin excuse for a plot. Not every joke or bit works, but, a lot do and the film still has far more heart than you would expect in a low brow comedy. There are some truly funny gags here…one involving Ted and John in a fertility clinic is particularly hysterical…and some very amusing cameos…such as a side-splitting Liam Neeson. Macfarlane even teases star Amanda Seyfriend about her large expressive eyes with a couple of Gollum references and the actress gets ‘good sport’ points for going along with it all the way. If nothing else, the finale set at New York City Comic Con is worth seeing this alone for, especially if you’re a geek and get all the references and costumes that get dragged into the mayhem. Sure the flick is far from perfect with a weak story, a strong predictability…John and Samantha, like we didn’t see THAT coming…and some very cliché situations but, the characters of John and Ted are endearing as ever and it’s their antics we came to see and Macfarlane delivers more often than not. At the very least this sequel is an equal and that’s good enough.

Obviously, the cast helps makes this work and some surprising faces get to show they have a sense of humor and can take a joke. Wahlberg is once again fun as simple working guy John Bennett. His phony Boston accent and surprising comic timing make him a good team with Macfarlane’s vocalization of the smart-ass, foul-mouthed, CGI Ted. Two friends who refuse to grow up and there is a chemistry between the performers that really makes the pairing special, even when the jokes fall flat. The biggest surprise here is Seyfried. I am a fan of the actress and was delighted to see that she not only can play low-brow comedy but, she plays it very well and fits right in with the boys. She not only is very funny but, also appears to be a good sport with the Gollum jokes and keeping a straight face when smoking an interestingly shaped bong. She has a flare for comedy and Macfarlane smartly let’s her cut loose in contrast to the more straightedged Lori (Mila Kunis) in part one. Ribisi is slimy and creepy again as Donny and we also get fun appearances from the likes of Morgan Freeman and a returning Sam J. Jones and Patrick Warburton in smaller roles…and some very funny cameos from an assortment of familiar faces including some Star Trek alumni.

Normally I am not a fan of Macfarlane’s humor but, something about the characters of John and Ted and the predicaments they get into are endearing and sometimes, just really funny. Sure the humor is beyond raunchy and Macfarlane and his co-scripters leave nothing sacred…a Ferguson, Missouri crack had the audience groan in shock… but, that’s kinda why we see these movies…to see how far they’ll go. Raunchiness like this needs humor and wit behind it, though…which was missing in Macfarlane’s A Million Ways To Die In The West…to really work. For the most part, Ted 2 has some definite cleverness in the toilet humor and some rebellious audacity, too. Not every joke is funny…again, the Ferguson reference…or every slapstick sequence a knee-slapper, but, the film succeeds far more than it fails and despite being about an animated teddy bear, that bear does have a heart buried under all the bodily fluid references.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 Teds.

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BARE BONES: OTIS, SUMMER’S MOON and THIRD PERSON

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OTIS (2008)

Otis is another of the contemporary trend of trying to be hip by mixing a disturbing subject with off-color and sometimes inappropriate humor. The effect here is just dull, off-putting and silly. Flick tells of serial killer Otis Broth (Bostin Christopher) who is a disturbed man-child loosely watched over by his older brother Elmo (Kevin Pollack) and living in his dead parents’ house. He delights in kidnapping girls who he all re-names Kim, keeps them prisoner as part of a girlfriend/prom scenario then eventually kills and dismembers them. When he kidnaps pretty Riley (Ashley Johnson) he messes with the wrong family. Directed by Tony Krantz and written by Erik Jendresen and Thomas Schnauz, the film is never disturbing enough to be chilling and not funny enough to be…well, funny. The humor is sophomoric and sometimes just silly and it’s attempts to be shocking fall flat too. Only partial saving grace is a very charming and spunky performance by Johnson (the waitress from The Avengers) as his fifth abductee whose vengeful parents (Daniel Stern and Illeana Douglas) ineptly try to take matters into their own hands when police prove incompetent. I know this flick has it’s fans but, aside from liking Johnson’s resilient Riley, I was just bored.

2 star rating

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SUMMER’S MOON (SUMMER’S BLOOD) (2009)

Despite a good turn by Ashley Greene and a disturbing portrayal by the reliable Stephen McHattie, this is just an epic fail. Greene plays Summer, a young woman who runs away from her drunken mother to find the father she’s never met and winds up the prisoner of a disturbed young man (Peter Mooney) and his mom (Barbara Niven). Three guesses who the patriarch of the house (McHattie) turns out to be. Film is just kind of a mess with none of it seeming to have much purpose and far too many preposterous conveniences occurring to carry the plot forward or be shocking. Director Lee Demarbre helms this very by-the-numbers and with little atmosphere and the script by Christine Conradt and Sean Hogan seems to like being shocking for shocking sake without legitimately trying to tell a story. We get incest, kidnaping and murder without any real reason why and by the end we really don’t see a point to it all. Greene does better than she is usually given credit for but, the film wastes it on just being bad…and at only 90 minutes, kinda boring too.

2 star rating

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THIRD PERSON - Official Poster

THIRD PERSON (2013)

Written and directed by Paul Haggis, this is an interesting and engaging drama with three stories told that we know will connect somehow by the time the credits roll. We have a writer (Liam Neeson) separated from his wife  (Kim Basinger) and with his lover Anna (Olivia Wilde) in Paris, while trying to complete a new book. We have Scott (Adrien Brody) on business in Rome who finds himself in the middle of a situation involving a mysterious and beautiful woman (Moran Atias), money and some shady characters. In New York there is troubled ex-actress Julia (Mila Kunis) who is trying to regain visitation with her young son after being accused of trying to harm him. Her artist ex-husband (James Franco) adamantly refuses to let her see him, while her lawyer (Maria Bello) tries desperately to change the judge’s mind despite Julia’s inability to handle the situation responsibly. The three stories are all well directed and acted and while I did figure things out before the reveal, it is still effectively done. Brody’s story is the weak link but, otherwise an entertaining drama with a fine cast.

3 star rating

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 -MonsterZero NJ
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REVIEW: OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013)

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OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013)

I liked Sam Raimi’s Oz The Great And Powerful but, I didn’t love it like I’d hoped. There seems to be an element of fun that the film is missing and that keeps it from being a real treat like it should be. Oz is based on L. Frank Baum’s books and is a prequel to the classic 1939 The Wizard Of Oz. It tells the story of selfish womanizer and shyster carnival magician, Oscar Diggs (James Franco) who, while escaping a jealous husband in a hot air balloon, is grabbed by a twister and whisked to the mystical land of Oz. Greeted there by pretty witch, Theodora (Mila Kunis), who instantly falls to his charms, she tells Oscar that he is the fulfillment of a prophecy that a great wizard would fall from the sky and save Oz from the Wicked Witch, Glinda (Michelle Williams). When brought to the emerald city, Diggs is promised by Theodora’s sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz) the throne of Oz and a mountain of gold but, first he has to destroy Glinda by stealing her wand and breaking it. Oscar accepts this quest with riches in his eyes but, soon discovers that he has been duped and it is Evanora who is the Wicked Witch and Glinda is the exiled Good Witch. Now having fallen for Glinda, he must find the selfless hero within to help the Good Witch defeat Evanora and free Oz of the Wicked Witch’s tyranny but, there is one catch… using the jilted Theodora’s feelings for Oscar against her, Evanora transforms her sister into a angry and vengeful witch who may be far more wicked then she herself. Oz is an entertaining enough movie but, there just seems to be something missing. Director Raimi and his leads seem to be taking things far too seriously and it’s not till well into the second half that the movie really provides some solid fun and the cast start to enjoy their larger then life characters. James Franco and Mila Kunis especially don’t seem to quite fit into their roles with Kunis outright appearing to be overall miscast. While Franco seems to settle in and start to enjoy himself as the future Wizard Of Oz in the second half, Kunis just never seems to have a good time with the over the top nature of the character, unlike Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams who seem to get the point from the beginning. The supporting cast are also fairly lively including the vocal talent for the CGI characters and there are plenty of colorful supporting characters and creatures. Despite taking the material a bit too seriously, director Sam Raimi does deliver a visual feast of color and design populated with some wonderful settings and characters. He and his FX technicians deliver a sumptuous and epic looking Oz that not only recreates elements from the first film but, beautifully expands upon it. MGM still owns the rights to the original Wizard Of Oz so, Raimi and Disney couldn’t recreate everything but, they do a good job at a visual match in what ways they could. The second act and the battle for Oz does give us a bit more of the fun we came looking for but, it still doesn’t help that we had to wait over an hour for Franco and the film to liven up. And it’s a shame a talented actress like Mila Kunis just couldn’t deliver an iconic Wicked Witch that the film needed. She was so bubbly and fun in Friends With Benefits, where was THAT actress when we needed her? Sometimes a role just isn’t right and it’s too bad because, this could have been a real blast if she had hit the right notes or at least followed Weisz’ lead and had fun with it. Overall I would still recommend the film as it has plenty to offer but, just not as much as it should have and it is a good film rather then the great movie it had the potential to be. And a movie telling the story of how The Wizard Of Oz came to be, needs to be a great movie!

3 fried Francos

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