REVIEW: FREAKY (2020)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

bars

FREAKY (2020)

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

Blumhouse’s latest is a slasher twist on the classic body switch scenario. While the town of Blissfield is being stalked by a serial killer, misfit high school teen Millie (Kathryn Newton) has her own problems to deal with. She is still mourning the death of her father, her mother (Katie Finneran) has turned to drinking, her crush Booker (Uriah Shelton) doesn’t even notice her and she is not exactly the most popular girl in school. The paths of she and The Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) are fated to cross and when they do, the use of an ancient Aztec dagger, procured from a previous victim, causes Millie and her attacker to switch bodies. Now, on Friday the 13th, of all days, Millie, in the Butcher’s body, has till midnight to fix things before the switch becomes permanent. She has to convince her best friends Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) that it’s really her, avoid her cop sister (Dana Drori) and stop The Butcher, who is using Millie’s body to stalk new prey in her high school’s very halls. It’s going to be a freaky Friday the 13th indeed!

Flick is directed by Christopher Landon from his script with Michael Kennedy. Landon is responsible for writing a number of Paranormal Activity sequels and directing that series’ The Marked Ones installment, as well as, directing and writing the fun Happy Death Day movies. It’s an entertaining mash-up of slasher meets Freaky Friday, though not quite the energetic fun that was his previous slasher meets Groundhog Day flicks. It is a lot more gruesome than Happy Death Day, though, and earns it’s “R” rating, while still being filled with some fun dialogue and generous movie references. The script is fairly clever with getting the Aztec dagger “La Dola” into The Butcher’s hands quickly, to get the story rolling, and using web savvy teens to give us the exposition we and Millie need, as to how the dagger works and what needs to be done. This sets in motion the race to regain possession of La Dola, before midnight passes and Millie is trapped forever in the body of a middle aged murderer…which The Butcher realizes may not be a bad thing. The film only falters a little when a few sentimental dialogue scenes go on for a bit too long and the filmmaker’s desire to be politically correct becomes a little too obvious in spots. The last act could have been a bit punchier, too, with it’s teen filled party in a warehouse setting. Otherwise, it’s a fun slasher/high school flick homage with some witty banter, some bloody carnage and a hip sense of humor.

The flick wouldn’t have worked nearly as well, if it wasn’t for our two leads having a blast playing each other’s parts. Kathryn Newton is very good, first as the awkward, likable and sympathetic Millie, and then as the sadistic serial killer. Newton is very successful as oozing evil and malice from within a high school girl’s veneer and has a threatening presence despite being a very pretty young girl. It’s Vince Vaughn, however, that really has a chance to take the ball and run with it as Millie in The Butcher’s body. Vaughn is hilarious as the awkward high school girl in the body of a middle aged serial killer and his mannerisms and body language are just as funny as his line delivery. He is even very threatening when he is The Blissfield Butcher back in his own body, in case you forgot he was a sadistic killer. Supporting cast is solid, too. Celeste O’Connor and Misha Osherovich as Nyla and the flamboyantly gay Josh are a fun duo. They play off Vaughn very well and have some amusing dialogue and comic bits as they race to help get Millie back in her own body. Katie Finneran is good as Millie’s lonely, mourning mother, as is Dana Drori as Millie’s tough, sarcastic cop sister. Uriah Shelton is likable as Millie’s crush, Booker, who is dragged into this mess and Ferris Bueller star Alan Ruck appears as a harsh wood shop teacher.

Overall, this flick was fun and was a nice mash-up of two types of film’s one wouldn’t immediately think of mixing up. The cast are really good, especially our body swopping leads, who have a blast playing each other. It can be gruesome, but is very witty and clever as well. It does drag in a few parts, due to some lengthy attempts at adding some sentimentality to the proceedings, but otherwise is an entertaining homage, though not quite the infectious fun of Landon’s Happy Death Day flicks…which Landon recently conceded take place in the same universe. Freaky Death Day someday maybe?

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) chainsaws which pretty Kathryn Newton wields quite well.

 

 

 

 

**************************************************

bars

BARE BONES: FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY (2019)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY (2019)

Comedy/biography is produced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and tells the true story of Saraya-Jade Bevis aka WWE Superstar Paige (Florence Pugh), who was raised in Norwich, England with a Mother (Lena Headly), Father (Nick Frost) and brother (Jack Lowden), who were all professional wrestlers. The film chronicles her wrestling upbringing, to being chosen to join WWE development in NXT, and finally her rise to the main roster and becoming the youngest WWE Diva’s Champion in history on 4/7/14.

Cute, if not cliché, bio-pic is written and directed by actor/director Stephen Merchant. Merchant delivers a fun and sometime heartwarming movie, though one that really cranks up the often told sports underdog scenario. Here, to try to achieve her dream of being a top WWE Superstar, Paige is portrayed as having to fight every step of the way to gain acceptance among her trainers, peers and the NXT audience. Adding to that a conflict with her wrestler brother Patrick (Lowden), who didn’t make the cut. In actuality, the real Paige was very popular in NXT and even had a successful run as their Women’s Champion before being called up to the main roster on the post-Wrestlemania XXX episode of RAW, where she faced Diva’s Champion AJ Lee in an impromptu title match. For cinematic purposes, it’s presented as a CInderella-like opportunity that comes out of nowhere, granted by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, whereas in real life she simply earned her promotion with her success in NXT. Obviously, much of Paige’s story is embellished to sell the Rocky-like underdog tone of the flick and a lot of the focus is also on her relationship with her eccentric family. Pugh makes for an endearing and plucky heroine and is surrounded by a good supporting cast, especially Nick Frost as her wrestler father, Vince Vaughn as her trainer and, in a fun bit of irony, current WWE Superstar Thea “Zelina Vega” Trinidad as former WWE Superstar AJ Lee. A fun enough movie and probably more so, if you aren’t a fan and am going in without prior knowledge of Paige’s career.

Personal Note: As a WWE fan and a big fan of Paige herself, my review may be more critical of the dramatic license taken with her story, as well as, it’s failing, though understandably, to acknowledge the bittersweet reality that Saraya-Jade “Paige” Bevis was forced to retire, four years after her victory over AJ Lee, at the age of 25 due to a career ending neck injury. She does still work with the WWE to this day in management positions on their Smackdown show.-MZNJ

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

BARE BONES: BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 (2017)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 (2017)

Vicious prison flick tells the story of down on his luck Bradley Thomas (Vince Vaughn) who after losing his job as a tow truck driver and finding out his wife, Lauren (Jennifer Carpenter) is cheating, takes a high paying job as a drug courier to try to improve his current state of life. A year and a half later, he’s living in a nice home and Lauren is pregnant. His good fortune runs out, however, when a drug pick-up goes wrong and he lands in jail. That’s not the worst of his problems, his wife is kidnapped by an angry drug lord and Bradley must get himself transferred to the notorious maximum security prison of Redleaf to kill an inmate there, to ensure her release. Armed only with his fists, Bradley must now survive this hell on earth with a target on his back.

Brutal flick is written and directed by S. Craig Zahler who did the same on Bone Tomahawk. Much like that film, it takes it’s time to tell it’s story and for a film that is basically an exploitation flick, treats it’s subject with a lot of respect. It’s almost 90 minutes before the real intense violence starts and Bradley finds he has been brought to Redleaf for a far more sinister purpose and now must fight for his life and that of his wife. The fights in the film are quite brutal, though some poorly rendered gore FX do lessen their impact and the depiction of prison life is quite nightmarish. Vaughn is surprisingly good in a non-comic, action role and Carpenter, Udo Kier and Don Johnson as a sadistic warden, make for a solid supporting cast. An effective and sometimes brutal drama with an old fashioned B-movie prison flick at it’s center.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: ELF and FRED CLAUS

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

double feature_ELF_FC

bars

While Halloween is my favorite holiday and time of year, I do enjoy Christmas so, I thought at some point I should post something more in tune with the holiday season so here is a fun and festive double feature that I like to watch during this merry time of year…

elf-movie-poster

ELF (2003)

Will Ferrell  teams up with director Jon Favreau (Iron Man 1 & 2), working from David Berenbaum’s script, and they have made a movie that is both entertaining comedy and charming Christmas tale and is considered a modern classic by many. Elf tells the story of a human baby that sneaks into Santa’s (Ed Asner) bag one Christmas Eve, while he is delivering gifts at an orphanage and isn’t discovered till he returns to the North Pole. Brought up by Santa and the elves…Papa elf (Bob Newhart) in particular…Buddy grows into a full grown man (Ferrell) who believes he’s an elf…until he finds out the truth, he’s not a cotton-headed ninny muggins, he’s a human. Faced with the reality that he is not who he thought he was, Buddy runs away to New York City to find his real father, a Scrooge-like book publisher named Walter Hobbs. But trying to bond with his father is the least of Buddy’s concerns as he meets his first crush, Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) when he voluntarily goes to work in Macy’s toy department, and must somehow return the Christmas spirit to New York City and his grumpy father to save Santa and Christmas on Christmas Eve.

I always felt Ferrell is funnier playing naive, instead of obnoxious, and here he is at his best playing the innocent fish out of water, Buddy. The supporting cast under Favreau’s direction know exactly how to play their parts with each actor playing it perfectly on the line between straight and camp..and it works. Caan is particularly effective playing the gruff and cantankerous Hobbs who initially has no interest in the man-child that has shown up at his door dressed like an elf. And he and Ferrell work very well off each other. Mary Steenburgen is also good as Hobbs’ wife…Buddy was sired with an ex-girlfiend who is deceased…who feels compassion for Buddy and would like to see him bond with his long lost dad. And Deschanel makes a sweet yet slightly eccentric love interest for Buddy despite her doubts of his North Pole origins. Favreau also gives the film a wonderfully whimsical tone with a touch of sarcastic humor and the whole flick is delightfully imbued with the holiday spirit. But it is Ferrell’s show and he gives one of his best performances and creates an endearing and wonderfully quotable character in Buddy who’s reactions to his first time in NYC are priceless.

A modern Christmas classic and a simply delightfully enjoyable comedy. Also stars Peter Dinklage as a self-centered and famous children’s book author whom Buddy mistakes for an elf with hilarious results.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Christmas trees!

elf rating

plus

fred_claus

FRED CLAUS (2007)

In this entertaining Christmas flick we find out that Santa Claus (Paul Giamatti) has an older brother named Fred (Vince Vaughn). Never able to live up to his younger brother’s saintly behavior, Fred became bitter and moved off to Chicago to become a repo man who delights in taking back Christmas presents. But Fred is also a shady person and his scams and schemes finally land him in jail. With no way to pay his bail, fine and owed rent, he calls his brother at the North Pole for help. Nicholas…Santa Claus to the rest of us…agrees to help on the condition that Fred come up to the North Pole and help prepare for Christmas, which is rapidly approaching. Being the good soul he is, Nicholas has never given up on or stopped loving his big brother. But Fred’s rivalry with his brother runs deep and his shady ways don’t exactly fit in t the North Pole. And worse still, efficiency expert with a grudge Clyde Northcutt (Kevin Spacey) would love to shut down Santa’s operation and is more then willing to use Fred’s antics to his advantage to do exactly that. But with the help of an elf named Willy (John Michael Higgins), Fred just might turn himself around, thwart Northcutt’s plan, help Willy win the heart of his human crush Charlene (Elizabeth Banks) and find the inner Santa that lies underneath the scoundrel he is on the outside.

Sure the story is cliché and predictable, but director David Dobkin does give the proceedings a sense of charm and fun. He keeps the story moving and the cast, which also includes Rachel Weisz as Fred’s long suffering girlfriend, Wanda and Miranda Richardson as Mrs. Claus, all seem to be having a good time and that is infectious and helps us to enjoy this routine but entertaining holiday tale. Vaughn plays the lovable rogue/loser to perfection and Giamatti is a jolly if not slightly neurotic St. Nick. The production looks good and there are some top notch effects and the film does carry the spirit of Christmas despite the familiarity. Maybe in this case the familiarity adds some charm as we know what to expect, but in this kind of holiday themed tale, it’s what we came to see and enjoy watching it play out. Either way, Fred Clause is a fun holiday movie, no classic, but an enjoyable and harmless bit of Christmas cheer that would make a nice addition to a holiday evening with pumpkin pie and egg nog in front of the TV.

A familiar but fun holiday romp. And who wouldn’t want Elizabeth Banks in her sexy Santa suit under their Christmas tree!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Christmas trees!

fred clause rating

elizabeth_banks_in_fred_claus
Well Ho Ho Hell-o!

bars