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Horror/comedy takes place at a remote lake in Maine where a diver has been chewed up by something living beneath the waters. NYC Paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda) is sent up to investigate and she teams up with Fish and Game officer Jack Wells (Bill Pullman) and local sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleeson) to find out what hungry critter has now made Black Lake it’s hunting ground. To their horror, a massive 30 ft. crocodile has taken up residence there and now they need to find a way to stop the monster reptile.

Fun nature run amok flick is directed by Steve (Friday the 13th part 2 & 3) Miner, from a script by David E. Kelley, that mixes the horror and humor elements very well. There is some solid suspense, some really well done action sequences and enough humor mixed in, for it to be a really entertaining 82 minutes. The story is very familiar and basic and the explanation for the creature’s presence there is a bit thin. On the plus side, it’s fast paced and there is enough carnage to secure an R rating, but not too much as to scare away mainstream audiences. The healthy budget is up on screen and there are a bunch of very likable characters to frolic with Stan Winston’s animatronic crocodile…with some reasonably well-done CGI critter scenes mixed in. One with an ill-fated grizzly bear stands out as very effective and amusing. It’s a good-time popcorn thriller that never tries to be more than the big budget B-movie it is and even if it’s nothing new story-wise, Miner milks the familiar scenario for the most he can get out of it.

The cast are all solid in their roles and seem to all have a good chemistry on film. Pullman is a charming, yet gruff hero who matches up perfectly with Fonda’s cute but nerdy scientist. Gleeson is fun as the bumpkin local sheriff and Oliver Platt is equally entertaining as a very enthusiastic professor, who joins the hunt. Betty White is a delight as a local who lives on the lake and Meredith Salenger is sexy and sweet as local deputy Sharon Gare. A really good cast that all get the tone of the material and play it just straight enough, but yet with a bit of a wink at the audience, as it is all in fun.

This is a very amusing nature run amok flick that can be played along with Alligator, Grizzly and just about any other B-movie of this kind you can think of. It’s fast moving, suspenseful, has just enough carnage and just enough humor to make it an all around entertaining night on the couch. A good cast and solid direction give this familiar tale some nice bite! A moderate box office hit that has gained quite an affectionate cult following in the years since it’s initial release. It became a franchise on the SYFY channel with a number of DTV sequels.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) crocodiles!






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VOODOO (2017)

This is a terrible found footage flick that has a young woman (Samantha Stewart) traveling to L.A. from her home of New Orleans after an affair with a married man provokes his voodoo practicing wife. She’s filming her trip, hence the found footage format and her footage catches the escalating pursuit by evil spirits till she is literally dragged to Hell…camera still filming, of course!

Flick is awfully written and directed by Tom Costabile and the only reason it gets the extra star is for having the audacity of being the first…at least I think so…found footage movie to take place in Hell. It is laughably bad for the most part, though it’s depiction of Hell does hit Baskin levels of offensiveness with newborn babies being eaten alive and our heroine being raped by Satan himself…or one of his muscular horned demons, I can’t really tell. It’s disturbingly graphic, though wears out it’s welcome quickly, but in terms of legitimate chills and thrills, it’s completely void and Costabile seems to know little or nothing about actual voodoo. At least pretty lead Samantha Stewart and co-star Ruth Reynolds were appealing.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating



SHUT IN (2016)

Moderately amusing thriller has widowed child psychologist Mary (Naomi Watts) caring for her catatonic 18 year-old step-son (Charlie Heaton) after an accident that also claimed her husband’s life. At the same time, she is concerned about a young patient of hers (Room’s Jacob Tremblay) that has run away into the Maine woods with a massive snowstorm approaching rapidly. As the snowfall traps Mary in the house, she starts to feel there is something strange going on and soon believes she is possibly being haunted by the now feared dead boy’s spirit.

Flick written by Christina Hudson and directed by Farren Blackbum is a completely generic and routine thriller with Watt’s solid performance being the only thing that keeps us entertained. She is a veteran actress and handles the weak material well, adding some emotional depth to the mundane goings on and making Mary very sympathetic and likable. The big reveal isn’t exactly a surprise and actually adds a creepy and uncomfortable sexual element to the proceedings, though one the filmmakers aren’t daring enough to go too far with as they shift the focus off it rather quickly, returning to the safer stalking about a dark house finale. If nothing else is on, it’s not a complete waste of time and the 48 year-old Watts still looks quite fetching in the buff. Also stars Oliver Platt as a psychologist friend of Mary’s.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating





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CHEF (2014)

I love to cook and thus, I did have a fun time with with Chef, an entertaining movie written and directed by Jon Favreau that has a buoyant energy and is only held back by the fact that, at it’s c0re, it’s just another cliche’ story of a self-important person who is humbled and through that, reconnects with the family he has been ignoring.

Favreau also stars as Chef Carl Casper, the head chef of one of California’s top restaurants, Gauloise, who is always at odds with the owner, Riva (Dustin Hoffman) over updating the long-standing menu. When forced to serve the same old cuisine to high profile food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), it gets him a bad review which triggers a nasty online war with Ramsey, one that goes viral, including video of Casper loosing his cool with the critic in the middle of the restaurant and finds Casper now out of a job and options. Casper finds help in his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) and her ex-husband Marvin (Robert Downey Jr.) who convince him to start his own food truck. Armed with his line cook Martin (John Leguizamo) and the son he’s been ignoring Percy (Emjay Anthony) he finds himself getting a second chance at life and happiness selling Cuban sandwiches from his mobile restaurant.

I liked this movie. Favreau really gives this a crackling energy and a nice cast of characters to inhabit the world of Chef Casper and he certainly fills the film with some wonderfully shot and energetic cooking sequences to delight the foodie and inner chef in all of us. But, it’s just too bad that the story is just so predictable and cliche’ at it’s core, despite the delicious wrapping. We have no doubt that Casper will reconnect with 10 year old son Percy and just possibly rekindle his feelings for ex-wife Inez. And to make things even more cliche’, is how everything gets wrapped up in a perfect bow by the time the credits roll. Sure, it’s a feel good movie, so, we should not expect heart-breaking surprises or dire consequences but, did Favreau have to follow the formula so closely? The movie still has loads of charm to spare but, he could have made Casper’s rise after his fall a little more challenging. It appears Casper is just handed things to get his life back together whether it be from Marvin’s oddly convenient generosity or his Twitter savvy son’s ability to use the internet to garner them instant fame and success. It never seems like Casper is truly being challenged… though he is having fun and we do have it along with him. One of Favreau’s gifts is to make this move a good time in spite of the fact that it is so familiar. He adds some clever animated touches with Twitter feeds showing up on-screen and the flying off into cyberspace… though that wears out it’s welcome about half way through… and gives us some really endearing characters who are very well cast.

And as for that cast, it is one of the things that make this film so likable. Favreau himself is a lovable lug from the beginning, despite being too full of his own success to spend time with his son. We are right there with him when he  looses his cool and posh job and want to see him return to his roots and find happiness and success again… even though it’s obvious he will. Leguizamo continues to show he is a far more versatile actor than given credit for as the loyal and always upbeat Martin, Carl’s line chef. Sofia Vergara is fine as Inez though, I will admit I am not a fan of the actress and feel she always lays it on too thick. She’s like a new generation Charo and I don’t get her appeal beyond her ample cleavage. This leads me to Scarlett Johansson’s character of Molly. I really liked Johansson’s portrayal of the tattooed Gauloise hostess and felt she and Carl has a really interesting relationship and it seemed to make far more sense to pair them up but, the film is so set on following the formula that it abandons Molly halfway through, as it is insistent on reuniting Casper and Inez who seem to have little in common aside from Percy. And as Percy, young Anthony does a good job of playing the son who wants to be with his father more. He keeps him grounded and from being annoying and has a good chemistry with Favreau. Rounding out are Robert Downey Jr. giving an eccentric performance as the equally eccentric Marvin in an extend cameo as Dustin Hoffman is perfectly crotchety as Gauloise owner Riva, who follows a strong “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” philosophy to his restaurant’s long-standing menu. A very good cast of well written characters to keep the film floating about it’s sea of cliché’s.

Overall, I did enjoy Chef. It is a fun and very energetic flick with some very likable characters and performances and some deliciously mouth-watering cooking sequences. It’s just a shame that underneath it’s gourmet coating is basically an all too familiar and cliche’ Happy Meal that we’ve seen before, time and time again. The core story follows the formula so closely that there are no surprises and the story wraps up far to conveniently and predictably to really make this something special, but, at least it’s buoyant atmosphere and delightful cast of characters add a tasty sauce to what could have been a very mundane meal. Still highly recommend it.

3 Cubanos!