BARE BONES: HUBIE HALLOWEEN (2020)

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HUBIE HALLOWEEN (2020)

Halloween comedy takes place in Salem, Massachusetts and centers on lifelong resident and center of the town’s mockery, the eccentric and odd man-child, Hubert “Hubie” Dubois (Adam Sandler). Hubie, who still lives with his mother (June Squibb), has taken a lot of abuse from other townies for his odd ways and behavior, especially when it comes to Halloween. This year will be different, as there is an escaped mental patient (or two) on the loose and some of the people who pick on Hubie most, start to disappear. This makes poor Hubie a suspect when all he really wants to do is find the courage to ask out his childhood crush, Violet Valentine (Julie Bowen).

Harmless family comedy is directed competently, but by-the-numbers by frequent Adam Sandler collaborator Steven Brill. He directs from a script by Sandler and Tim Herlihy and still manages to fill the film with lots of fun, Halloween spirit. Sure it’s dumb and has barely what could be considered a plot, but it does have some charm and the cast all seem to be having fun with their roles. Sandler’s bumbling Hubie does become endearing after a bit and you do feel sympathy for the guy, while rooting for him to solve the mystery and win the girl. Seeing Hubie get picked-on so much does get tiresome and it is a predictable and formula comedy, but it looks great, with lots of Halloween imagery, and does convey a love for the All Hallow’s Eve holiday. Flick is streaming on Netflix, if you are looking for some mindless Halloween fun to cleanse the pallet, but still stay in the spirit, after watching so many horror flicks. Also stars Kevin James as a Salem police sergeant, Steve Buscemi as a mysterious old man and Ray Liotta as one of Hubie’s biggest foes.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND (2020)

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THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND (2020)

Scott Carlin (Pete Davidson) is a twenty-something stoner/slacker who sits around smoking pot every day with his friends, doesn’t work and still lives with his widowed mother, Margie (Marisa Tomei). Scott’s life of complacency is about to change, however, as his mom starts dating divorced fireman Ray (Bill Burr), his caring sister, Claire (Maude Apatow) moves out to attend college and his “girlfriend,” Kelsey (Bel Powley) is putting pressure on him to be an actual boyfriend. Is it time for Scott to get a life, or will he find some way to keep his current lifestyle of smoking weed and giving his friends tattoos of questionable quality?

Film is directed by Judd Apatow from his script co-written with star Pete Davidson and David Sirus. It is supposedly based somewhat on Pete Davidson’s life growing up in Staten Island and loosing his fireman father at a young age. It’s one of Apatow’s better films in some time with a nice, even mix of drama and comedy and a really solid cast. Davidson is charming and funny as the Scott, who’s got a good heart, but zero ambitions, aside from his dream to open a tattoo parlor/restaurant. Still hurting over the on-duty death of his his fireman father, there is reasonable turmoil when his mother starts dating another one. Davidson plays that well, too. Scott has to make some strong decisions when thrown out by his fed-up mother and everyone around him is either moving on with their lives, or getting themselves into trouble. Apatow directs very low-key and uses the Staten Island locations to charming effect and the film is never boring at 136 minutes. The cast are all great, with Tomei giving another culturally flavorful performance and SNL alumni Pete Davidson proving he can carry a film. After a few stumbles, this and Trainwreck prove Apatow’s back to form.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ESCAPE FROM L.A. (1996)

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ESCAPE FROM L.A. (1996)

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

It took 15 years, but in 1996 John Carpenter finally brought Snake Plissken back for another escape. This flick takes place in 2013 and finds Plissken (Kurt Russell) being caught gunfighting in Thailand and brought to the West Coast to be deposited in the lawless island of L.A. A massive earthquake, predicted by the United States’ right wing religious president (Cliff Robertson), has separated L.A. from the mainland and now any immoral or criminal individuals are deposited in this no man’s land. Meanwhile, the president’s daughter, Utopia (A.J. Langer) has rebelled and fled to L.A. into the arms of Peruvian terrorist Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface) with a doomsday weapon. Like in New York, Plissken is offered his freedom and a pardon of all his crimes, if he infiltrates L.A., kills Cuervo and Utopia and returns the weapon to the U.S. president.

Escape from L.A. was a box office and critical disappointment back in 1996, but with a lot of John Carpenter’s lesser films, it grows on one and now, viewed all these years later, is an entertaining watch finally finding it’s fan base. Carpenter directed from a script by he, producer Debra Hill and star Kurt Russell. It’s lighter in tone and more colorful than Plissken’s apocalyptic first adventure and the characters are a bit more cartoonish than those Snake met in NYC. The budget is almost 4x as much, though bargain basement CGI FX make it look a lot cheaper than it’s 1981 predecessor. The story is a thin remake of the first film and is a bit more politically preachy, with it’s religious right president and police state where even smoking and red meat are criminal offenses. Thankfully Snake is still Snake and he’s cool as ice, even when surfing a tsunami alongside Peter Fonda. The action is somewhat bigger than in EFNY, though a weak villain and too many disposable characters lessen the film’s overall impact. The flick follows the 1981 original’s template too closely to really resonate as a new adventure, but there is a lot of entertainment in watching Carpenter poke fun at politics and Hollywood, no more evident than the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills (Bruce Campbell) segment. It is a flawed movie, but with a little added nostalgia, at over two decades old, it can be fun…and at least we get to see Russell back in action as Snake, one more time.

Carpenter always assembles a good cast. Russell steps into Snake Plissken seamlessly and despite the outlaw being 15 years older, it seems like just yesterday, he was escaping New York City. Russell plays him very seriously despite the film’s lighter tone and Snake is ever the badass up until and including the very last shot. A classic character used far too sparsely. The only disappointment in the cast is Corraface as Cuervo Jones. The actor tries hard, but doesn’t have the presence or ferocity to make him a strong villain worthy of taking on Snake. He’s weak. Issac Hayes’ Duke of New York seemed far more deadly and dangerous. Langer is fine as the ditzy Utopia, though the character is too light to fit in a Plissken adventure. Same could be said of Buscemi’s ‘Map To The Stars’ Eddie. He’s a jokey substitute for Borgnine’s Cabbie and another character that feels out of place. Keach is good as Malloy who would be the Bob Hauk character, as is Robertson slimy as the religious zealot president. Michelle Forbes, Valeria Golino, the great Pam Grier and Peter Fonda are all fine in their supporting roles, as is Bruce Campbell a hoot as the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills. A good cast for the most part.

Overall, this was a bit disappointing when seen opening day 1996, especially to those of us who had been waiting 15 years for Carpenter to unleash Snake Plissken again. Decades later, now that the disappointment has abated and nostalgia has set in, it’s doesn’t seem so bad. Sure, it’s a bit too much of a remake to feel like a completely new adventure, but Russell is still awesome as Snake and at least we have two adventures to watch instead of just the one. There is a lot of action, aside from some sly political commentary and showbiz satire and some of it is more relevant now than back in the day. Not one of Carpenter’s best, but like many of his lesser titles, one that has actually aged better than expected…except for the awful CGI. Where was James Cameron and the New World Pictures FX crew and their model work when you needed them.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Snake Plisskens.

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: THE DEAD DON’T DIE (2019)

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THE DEAD DON’T DIE (2019)

If one ever said that eclectic indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch would make a zombie film, or Bill Murray would make two, one would initially be thought mad…but here we are. Flick takes place in the small, rural town of Centerville where a group of eccentric characters including Police Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) are dealing with a bizarre situation. The Earth has been thrown off it’s axis and now the dead are returning to life. As the town population dwindles, Robertson and Officer Ronald Peterson (Adam Driver) must battle the increasing army of the flesh eating living dead.

Flick is written and directed by Jarmusch and is filled with atmosphere and the director’s trademark dry humor. There is a lot of strange stuff going on and a host of oddball characters, but the film doesn’t always click and it does have the pace of, well…a funeral. There are some amusing moments and some bloody ones, too. The familiar tropes are present and Jarmusch does play with them a bit. The cast is quite impressive and amusing, such as Tilda Swinton’s sword wielding Scotswoman, but the movie on a whole never really seems to find it’s footing and rambles on like one of it’s zombies. Considering that it’s Jim Jarmusch actually making a zombie film, one would expect something a bit more special. Also stars Iggy Pop, Selena Gomez, Danny Glover, Chloë Sevigny and Tom Waits as “Hermit Bob”.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1990)

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TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1990)

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

Tales From The Darkside started out as a horror anthology series produced by the legendary George A. Romero, that ran four seasons from October 1983 till July of 1988. In 1990 a movie version was released presenting a trio of terrifying tales tied together by a wraparound story. In the opening segment we see a young boy (Matthew Lawrence) being held in a cell by a witch (Deborah Harry). She plans to cook the kid as the main course for a dinner party and he tries to stall her by reading her stories from a book she left for him in his cell…Tales From he Darkside! As Timmy reads to prolong his fate, three tales of terror unfold!

All three stories and the wraparound are directed by John Harrison, a frequent Romero collaborator, though the script is by Romero and Michael McDowell and based on various works.

The first story is the lesser of the three and is based on a short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Lot 249 involves betrayal, revenge, murder and an ancient Egyptian mummy. When student Bellingham (Steve Buscemi) is cheated out of a deserved scholarship, he uses the mummy to exact revenge on those responsible, Lee and Susan (Robert Sedgwick and Julianne Moore). The plot for retribution works out fine till Susan’s brother Andy (Christian Slater) tries to turn the tables on Bellingham for some revenge of his own. This segment is kind of ho-hum and comes to a predictable conclusion, but is still somewhat entertaining, has a good cast and is quite gory.

Second story is called The Cat From Hell and is based on a story by Stephen King. The tale finds pharmaceutical billionaire Drogan (William Hickey) hiring a hit man named Halston (David Johansen) to exterminate a black cat that Drogan claims has killed the rest of the members of his household. What ensues is a cat and mouse game…pun intended…throughout the dark mansion with predator hunting predator. It’s a fun episode, especially thanks to a lively and over-the-top performance from Johansen and has some really good gore. While the ending isn’t unexpected, it’s gruesome fun. Probably the best episode overall.

Final tale is a tragic love story called Lover’s Vow. Down on his luck artist Preston (James Remar) witnesses the savage murder of a local bartender by a creature resembling the local building gargoyles. He promises the creature, in return for his life, that he will never speak of it to anyone. On that same night Preston meets the beautiful Carola (Rae Dawn Chong) whom he falls in love with. The two wed and have children, but on one fateful night, Preston reveals his chilling tale to his loving wife…and with horrifying results. Story is the most serious of the bunch which otherwise have a bit of humor mixed in with the chills and as with the others, some nice gore. It too, is also a bit predictable, but works in spite of that.

We then return to the wraparound where Timmy is not going into the oven without a fight. Will he be freed or fried?…you’ll have to watch to find out!

Overall this is a fun anthology, though not a true classic. There is some nice nostalgia here too, as well as, some entertaining moments across the board. Harrison directs well and it is a fun horror flick in the spirit of Romero and King’s Creepshow from years earlier. Nothing overly special, but a solid good time. Did fairly well upon it’s release in 1990, but not enough to inspire a second go around.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 books of spooky stories.

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BARE BONES: DARLING and GHOST WORLD

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DARLING (2015)

Strange flick tells the story of Darling, (Jug Face’s Lauren Ashley Carter) a pretty young woman who takes on the job of being the caretaker of an old Manhattan apartment that is allegedly haunted. As Darling spends more and more time there, we start to find out that Darling has just as much of a past as the house…and thus start to question who is more haunted, the apartment or it’s caretaker.

Written and directed by Michael Keating this is an unnerving film told in six chapters and with minimal characters, focusing mostly on Darling. It has more of an offbeat narrative and evokes flicks like Eraserhead with it’s stark black and white photography, somber mood and split second flashes of disturbing imagery. It has some brutally violent moments and an ending you can see coming but works well anyway. When all is said and done, it is an unnerving little movie made so by both it’s story and it’s style of storytelling. Also stars Brian Morvant as a man who Darling meets and brings home and Sean Young as the owner “Madame”.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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GHOST WORLD (2001)

Quirky offbeat comedy tells of two friends (Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson) who walk to the beat of their own drums, but need to find their direction after they graduate high school. Rebellious Enid (Birch) seems to be content to let things remain the same, despite being unhappy at home, while Becky (Johansson) decides they should move into their own place and get jobs. Becky’s forward motion starts them growing apart and Enid’s quest to amuse herself leads her to befriending a strange and lonely older man (Steve Buscemi).

Ghost World is based on Daniel Clowes graphic novel and as directed by Crumb director Terry Zwigoff, is a charming and sometimes funny study of two offbeat young girls at a crucial point in their lives. Birch and Johansson are good and work well together, thought the film focuses more on the cynical Enid and her sarcastic view of those around her. Buscemi is charming as the nerdy and shy Seymour and succeeds in making the character sympathetic and likable when he could have been very creepy. Zwigoff takes us on a strange journey as these characters find their own paths through their interaction with each other and while some may not like the ambiguous end, it does fit the tone of the film. Not for everyone, but for those who enjoy the offbeat and different, Ghost World is an entertaining little movie.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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