REVIEW: UNCLE NICK (2015)

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UNCLE NICK (2015)

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Nick (Brian Posehn) is a down-on-his-luck slob who has been in a slump since loosing the love of his life, Emily (Annie Savage in flashbacks) to an aneurism. He reluctantly runs the family landscaping business while his younger brother Cody (Beau Ballinger) seems to get all the breaks. Case in point, Cody has recently married wealthy older woman Sophie (Paget Brewster) and lives in her luxurious home while doing little work for a living. They have invited Nick and sister Michelle (Missi Pyle) over for Christmas dinner and the only reason Nick is going, is to try to score with Cody’s hot and flirty twenty year-old step-daughter Valerie (Melia Renee). But with his jealousy and bitterness over his brother’s fortune bubbling to the surface, this could be a Christmas none of them will ever forget.

Ohio set Christmas comedy is rude, crude and has it’s share of dark humor, but is actually funny at times, too as directed by Chris Kasick from Mike Demski’s script. The story of the slobs vs the snobs, the train wreck character having his day and the Christmas dinner turned disaster, have all been done before, but the formula works fairly well here thanks to some legitimate laughs and a few moments of surprising sentimentality as when Nick relays during dinner the discovery of Emily’s body upon waking up. There are some very cliché moments, too, such as Nick finally getting his moment with the vixenish Valerie, but doing the noble thing, only to find out Cody is having an affair with her, under his new wife’s nose. Again, we’ve seen it all before, but writer Demski does come up with some funny bits and Cody is such a douche that we side with the oafish Nick even when he is wallowing in self-pity. The film also uses an interesting framework of being told in nine sections each in comparison to an inning in the June 4th, 1974 “Ten Cent Beer Night” Indians/Rangers baseball game that ended in a riot. This bit of cleverness does add an interesting slant as Nick relates the tale of that infamous ballgame, inning by inning, which echoes how his Christmas dinner outing is playing out. Maybe the only original thing the movie does, but it did add an interesting touch and was amusing in itself if nothing else.

The cast works well in portraying their misfit characters. There are some good performances here and Posehn’s deadpan delivery makes a lot of the lines work better than they should. His Nick may be feeling sorry for himself, but Posehn does make him likable even with his boorish behavior and slightly creepy pursuit of his younger step-niece. As for that, there is a basic bond between the two that does work. Melia Renee is perfectly cast as the sexy, tease Valerie and the actress gives her a little depth beyond the kittenish behavior. There does seem to be an actual affection for Nick, who shares her dislike for her new family situation and she has moments where we understand her rebellious behavior. Sleeping with Cody is just a way to hurt her mother for divorcing her dad. The actress has sex appeal and a bit of a presence and it would be nice to see her in something else, such as final girl duty in a good slasher. Paget Brewster also gives what could have been a stereotypical rich shrew role…though to degree it still is…a bit more three dimensional-ity, especially after the film’s big family showdown. She’s a woman who may realize she was selfish in her decisions. Beau Ballinger is fine as douche Cody, his role is shortchanged of any sort of depth in the writing, but the character works as it’s supposed to. The rest of the cast are fine from Pyle’s, oddball sister to Scott Adsit as her clueless companion and Jacob Houston as Sophie’s teen son Marcus.

The film doesn’t have much in terms of originality, but does have some laughs and there are some moments of depth character-wise through all the smoking, drinking and cursing the main protagonists do. The actors are fine and lead Posehn has a solid deadpan delivery to get some extra mileage out of the lines. It may be a forgettable comedy when all is said and done, but an amusing enough holiday diversion to add to your list of Christmas-in-ruins flicks, if that’s your thing.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Christmas trees.

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BARE BONES: PANDEMIC and THE DEVIL COMPLEX

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PANDEMIC (2016)

Zombie outbreak flick is a mildly entertaining diversion that has a doctor (Rachel Nichols) being taken by a small squad of soldiers (Alfie Allen, Mekhi Phifer and Missi Pyle) into a contaminated area to search for a missing team and the uncontaminated survivors they supposedly found. The mission goes awry, stranding the team and putting their lives in danger…as it does the doctor’s own secret, personal agenda.

Written by Dustin T. Benson and directed by John Suits this is absolutely nothing new in the zombie sub-genre and certainly adds nothing to freshen up it’s story in the current over-saturation of living dead movies, shows and books. It is well made for a low budget flick and moves along quickly enough with some decent action, but nothing innovative. The constant use of POV shots from the team’s helmet cams may amuse some, but if you’re not a gamer, it will probably just give you a headache. The cast are fine and Nichols makes a solid heroine with her own secret and gives the movie a little emotional weight. If you just want a little entertainment to go along with your beers, you could do worse than this SYFY-ish zombie flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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THE DEVIL COMPLEX (2016)

Absolutely awful found footage flick has student Rachel (Maria Simona Arsu) hiring a small crew (Patrick Sebastian Negrean and Marius Dan Munteanu) to enter Romania’s supposedly haunted Baciu forest to film a documentary. Sound familiar? As we know from the professor that opens the movie (Adrian Carlugeo), the trio disappeared and we are now watching their laughably Blair Witch-ish footage that looks like a home movie filmed in one afternoon on a dare.

Directed by Mark Evans who co-wrote with Caroline Riley this is bottom of the barrel found footage nonsense that is not only terribly boring, but is so blatant a Blair Witch rip-off that it could almost be a remake…and a horrible one at that. The dialog between them is awful as we meander around the snowy countryside following these idiots as their nut job of a guide (Bill Hutchens) disappears and they get lost. They then start to loose there minds when they can’t find their way out and feel something evil is stalking them based on finding a teddy bear and a shoe…all with some heinously bad dialog that is equally ineptly acted. There is a scant bit of bloodshed in the last act, but it is with little effect and at that point we just want this inane flick to be over with. Leading lady Arsu was kind of cute, but no amount of beauty would make this watchable.

-MonsterZero NJ

one star rating

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