Monster Party

MonsterParty

Directed By: Chris von Hoffmann
Starring: Sam Strike, Virginia Gardener, Brandon Micheal Hall, Kian Lawley, Erin Moriarty, Robin Tunney, Julian McMahon, Chester Rushing, Jamie Ward, Lance Reddick, et. al.
Rating: NR
Grade: B+

When a trio of low-level thieves decide to infiltrate a high-end party at a rich family’s home by posing as caterers, the last thing they expect is that the party is actually an annual meeting for recovering serial killers. However, when one of trio proves to be too tempting a target for one of the guests, all hell breaks loose. After the house is put into lockdown, the remaining two attempt to navigate household, and find they have no choice but to trust the daughter of the party’s hosts, who claims not to share in her family’s bloodlust. As time ticks by, the unlikely allies find they have no choice but to fight back if they want to make it out alive.

Sometimes all you need is a movie that gives you exactly what you expect of it, and perhaps a little bit more. This B-grade horror/thriller may not have any deep meaning or late-stage twists, but what it delivers is a refreshingly honest, original movie about the difficulties of overcoming addiction, no matter what that addiction may be. While most of the ‘monsters’ slip effortlessly back into their old ways, Robin Tunney’s Roxanne visibly struggles with temptation, and Lance Reddick’s Milo uses an iron-clad grip to keep his at bay. Erin Moriarty’s Alexis, the ‘sober’ family member displays the struggle of being the responsible family member who has no taste for the rest of the family’s drug of choice.

The blood effects used in the movie were decent, and the background filler isn’t really noticeable.

Parts of the movie tend to lean more towards drama than horror, but it doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyable experience. I’m not quite sure what I initially expected when I watched the movie, but what I got was pleasantly good movie that anyone who doesn’t mind a bit of a bloodbath should enjoy. There are very few scenes with graphic gore, though a good portion of the movie is soaked in blood. The movie itself is enjoyable enough that you probably wouldn’t mind watching it more than once.

Monster Party is currently not available free to stream anywhere, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

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The Boy (2016)

TheBoy

Directed By: William Brent Bell
Starring: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, James Russell, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle, Ben Robson, et. al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B-

American Greta Evans takes a job as a nanny for Heelshire’s, a couple in the English countryside with an 8 year old son. When she arrives, however, she discovers that the “boy” she’s meant to be caring for is actually a life-sized doll named Brahms, after the couple’s deceased son. After getting a basic rundown of Brahms’ daily routine and meeting the grocery delivery person, a charming man named Malcolm, who is also the only other person allowed in the house, Greta is given a strict set of instructions regarding Brahms’ care, and is left alone with the doll. After following her own routine for a few days, Greta begins to notice strange things happening in the house, such as the doll and other things moving seemingly of their own accord. Confiding in Malcolm that she thinks the doll may actually be alive, she is told the story behind Brahms’ death, and that he may not have been the sweet child the Heelshire’s claim him to have been. After Greta receives an unexpected visitor, the terrifying truth behind the incidents in the house is revealed to be far worse than she or Malcolm thought possible.

This is another movie that should have been far better than what the final product turned out to be. What was intended to be an intense psychological thriller was watered down to a stereotypical semi-horror/thriller. After reading what the original idea for the movie was, I’m almost certain that it would have far better, and scarier, than what was actually released. The acting is okay. After several years on The Walking Dead, Cohan has adapted well to acting in horror scenarios, and her American accent is solid. The American accent of the actor who plays her ex, however, is choppy and mottled, but he’s not in very many scenes so it doesn’t detract from the story. The other actors are using their natural accents.

There are little to no special effects beyond background filler, and that isn’t noticeable.

If you don’t mind low-grade thrillers, then you’ll probably like this movie. Enough of the original story is retained that it’s not completely predictable. It also doesn’t rely solely on jump scares to get a reaction. It’s a decent effort to create an atmospheric movie, and, in part, it succeeds. After an initial viewing, it could definitely be used as background noise for someone who doesn’t want to sit in silence, but doesn’t want to worry missing out on the plot details of a newer or more complex story.

The Boy is currently not available free to stream anywhere, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Professor Marston & the Wonder Women

ProfessorMarston

Directed By: Angela Robinson
Starring: Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, Connie Britton, Monica Giordano, JJ Field, Chris Conroy, Oliver Platt, Maggie Castle, et. al.
Rating: R
Grade: B+

Professor of Psychology and inventor, William Moulton Marston, finds his life turned upside down after a three-way affair between himself, his wife Elizabeth, and their assistant/mistress Olive Byrne gets them all kicked off the Harvard campus. Needing purpose after losing his livelihood, Marston attempts to make a living as an author, eventually coming up with an idea for the superhero Wonder Woman, through which he would attempts to instill his, at the time, unheard of and highly controversial theories about psychology and sexuality into the mainstream. However, after his private life is once again made public, Marston fights not only to keep control of his creation, but to keep his unusual family intact.

This movie had the potential to be something great. Instead, it seems to be attempting to ride to coattails of the success of the Wonder Woman movie. It focuses less on the creation of the heroine, and more on the unusual sexual practices of her creator, with an unnecessarily long section of the movie dedicated to the trio discovering and engaging in light BDSM and roleplay. The storytelling format is something of a stilted flashback, with large portions of the story being broken up by Ethics Board meeting Marston is attending until the movie catches up with itself. The acting is well-done. Despite that all three lead characters are American, only Heathcote manages to completely mask her accent. Evans’ accent only slips occasionally when his voice is raised. Hall, however, can’t seem to find a grip on her accent, though it doesn’t really detract from the story itself.

The effects are almost entirely background filler, and are not really noticeable.

The movie itself isn’t entirely a wash. So long as you can look past the, in my opinion, unnecessary focus on polyamorous relationship, it’s interesting to see the circumstances that led to the creation of the world’s first, and still most popular, female superhero. However, like most based-on-a-true-story movies, there are some dramatizations made, and it should be noted that descendants of both the Marstons and Olive Byrne have denied the nature of the relationship between the three presented by the movie. That aside, someone looking for an interesting drama based on the real events that led to the creation of a superhero should like this movie.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is currently free to stream through Hulu, and can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

A Simple Favor

SimpleFavor

Directed By: Paul Fieg
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Linda Cardellini, Ian Ho, Joshua Satine, Andrew Rannells, Kelly McCormack, Aparna Nancherla, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: B

When over achieving mommy-vlogger Stephanie meets sleek, effortless Emily, the last thing she expects is a fast friendship filled with martini lunches and near-daily play dates between their two sons. However, when Emily goes missing after asking Stephanie to watch her son, Stephanie takes it upon herself to not only investigate the disappearance, but make sure Emily’s family is well cared for. As the plot behind Emily’s disappearance thickens, Stephanie finds herself in a twisted web of secrets and lies as she attempts to unravel the mystery she has found herself inextricably entangled in.

So far as recent crime thrillers go, this one mostly holds its own weight. While director Paul Fieg is mostly known for his comedies, he manages to create an almost noir-ish atmosphere with the movie. The plot is mostly solid, and the actors all work well together. Kendrick and Lively slip into their roles well, and Golding has decent chemistry with both. The actors playing the children handle their roles well, too, especially considering that the content can get heavy at times. The contrast between the brightly-lit suburban setting and the dark nature of the story is an interesting narrative device and makes already uncomfortable subjects just a bit more so.

Nearly all of the effects are background filler, and are not noticeable.

Anyone looking for a decent mystery thriller should like this. While parts of it lean toward predictability, it mostly manages to stay a step ahead of the viewer, and the ending is clever. As with all R-rated titles, parents may want to watch the movie before allowing young kids to see it. Anyone wanting to watch the movie again should be able to do so without getting bored.

A Simple Favor currently is not free to stream, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

A Star Is Born

StarIsBorn

Directed By: Bradley Cooper
Starring: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Anthony Ramos, Dave Chapelle, Greg Grunberg, Drena De Niro, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: A-
After barely making it through a sold-out concert, down on his luck rocker Jackson Maine heads to a Los Angeles drag bar where he meets Ally, a struggling songwriter who performs at the bar part-time.  After spending the evening getting to know her, Jackson invites Ally to his next concert in Las Vegas, where he invites her on stage to perform one of her songs.  When he finally convinces Ally to perform one of her songs solo, her career takes off, and what ensues is a volatile, passionate romance as they both try to balance out Ally’s skyrocketing career with Jackson’s own failing one.
An emotional roller coaster almost from start to finish, this most recent remake of the classic film is an incredible feat for first-time director Bradley Cooper to have taken on, and he manages to make a beautiful film worthy of the nominations it received.  The chemistry between Cooper and Gaga feels real and natural.  Lady Gaga’s inexperience as an actress seems to have worked well in her favor here, because it conveys into a character discomfort with the sudden limelight she finds herself in, and while Cooper is not a professional musician, he does a more than adequate job in singing for his character.  His character’s relationship with his brother, played by Hollywood staple Sam Elliott, is one of the central relationships in the movie, though it probably should have gotten focus than it did.
Most of the effects used are background filler and not noticeable.
So long as you don’t mind emotionally exhausting dramas, you should enjoy this movie.  It’s adequate pacing lets the audience absorb the information before moving forward, and you find yourself truly caring about the characters as endure their struggles.  And, while it may not be something you want to watch on a weekly basis, it is likely that you would want to watch it again, and it shouldn’t begin to grate on those repeat viewings.
A Star is Born is currently free to stream through Hulu, and can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Bad Samaritan

BadSamaritan

Directed By: Dean Devlin
Starring: David Tennant, Robert Sheehan, Kerry Condon, Carlito Olivero, Jacqueline Byers, Tracey Heggins, Rob Nagle, Lorraine Bahr, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: C
Sean Falco, an amateur photographer supplementing his income by valeting cars and robbing some of the restaurant’s customers, loses control of his life when one of the houses he breaks into belongs to a sociopath who has a woman tied up one of the rooms.  As the man, Cale Erendreich, takes his revenge on Sean for compromising his illegal lifestyle, Sean races against time to clear his name and free the woman before she’s killed.  Enlisting the help of an FBI agent who believes that Erendreich may be a serial killer only she is certain exists, Sean does all he can to protect his loved ones and gather evidence that Erendreich is a killer.
This movie should have been better than it was.  The idea of a petty thief who accidentally crosses paths with serial killer and becomes a target gets points for originality, but unfortunately its potential isn’t fully realized.  Sean is portrayed as a loveable screwup with ‘standards’ (he won’t get a photojournalism job because that would be selling out) who is almost unbelievably dumb (leaving doors unlocked, etc.), meanwhile, Erendreich is almost supernaturally intelligent (he hacks into Sean’s computer files/social media/etc.) and quickly becomes an almost unbeatable foe who expertly turns Sean’s life upside down in only a few days.  Another thing that bothered me was the accent Tennant used.  While not outright bad, I’m more used to his natural and/or English accents from previous endeavors.
Most of the effects used are background filler and not noticeable.
While not entirely boring, this movie definitely could have been better than what it was.  Instead of giving real stakes and tension, they go more for cheap thrills and a breakneck pace that doesn’t allow for anything to really be processed before moving forward to the next ‘danger’.  As long as you don’t get your hopes up too high, you should have no issue with having watched this movie, though it may not be something that gets repeat viewings.
Bad Samaritan is free to stream through Hulu and Amazon Prime, and can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Kim Possible (2019)

KimPossible

Directed By: Zach Lipovsky & Adam B. Stein
Starring: Sadie Stanley, Sean Giambrone, Ciara Riley Wilson, Todd Stashwick, Taylor Ortega, Alyson Hannigan, Connie Ray, Erica Tham, Patton Oswalt, et.al.
Rating: TV-G
Network: Disney Channel
Grade: B+
Teen hero Kim Possible, who overcomes any obstacle in her path, finds herself unusually out of her element upon beginning high school.  Despite having her best friend, Ron Stoppable, tech whiz Wade, and new friend Athena by her side, Kim’s continues to slowly lose control over her once-perfect life.  When her nemesis, Dr. Drakken, is broken out of prison by his henchwoman Shego, Kim discovers that it’s not just her personal life that she’s out of step with, but when one of her friends is put in danger, Kim does everything she can set things right and rescue her friend and stop Dr. Drakken’s evil plot.
The plot for this movie – What happens when the intrepid hero loses their special spark? – was surprisingly original for a children’s made-for-TV movie.  It’s not often franchises, existing or potential, are willing to not only admit that the main character is flawed, but to actively show them make potentially disastrous mistakes and learn and grow from them.  The actors themselves work well together, and the ones playing Kim and Ron have a wonderful platonic chemistry.  It was also nice to see Todd Stashwick get to have fun with a role, instead of the straight-up bad guy he usually plays.
Some of the bigger/more prominent effects falter to scrutiny, but this is on par with other DCOMs (Disney Channel Original Movies).  Most of the background filler isn’t really noticeable.
We didn’t have cable growing up, so I was largely unfamiliar with the original cartoon that this DCOM is based on, and though I have seen a handful of episodes since watching this movie, the cartoon doesn’t have much bearing on the movie’s plotline.  That said, this is a cute movie that should appeal mostly to the younger crowd, although adults who don’t mind kids movies should find it enjoyable as well.
Kim Possible is free to stream through the DisneyNOW app, and is available for purchase or rental at any participating store or on-line retailer.

The Pelican Brief

PelicanBrief

Directed By: Alan J. Pakula
Starring: Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, John Heard, Tony Goldwyn, James Sikking, William Atherton, Robert Culp, Stanley Tucci, Hume Cronyn, John Lithgow, Anthony Heald, Jake Weber, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B

When two Supreme Court justices are murdered on the same night, Tulane law professor Thomas Callahan takes it upon himself to investigate possible reasons for the murders, especially since one of the judges was terminally ill. With the help of his girlfriend/student, Darby Shaw, Callahan comes up with a plausible theory that the authorities haven’t thought of, which theorizes that the judges were killed to aid an appeal of a court decision to protect a piece of land housing a rare subspecies of brown pelican. After turning the brief over to a friend at the FBI, Callahan is murdered, and Darby seeks out the help of both Callahan’s friend in the FBI, as well as investigative reporter Gray Grantham, who was also close to one of the murdered judges. After Gray is contacted by an insider at a high-powered law firm, he begins to believe that there is more to the murders than meets the eye, and he and Darby race against time to uncover a plot that leads all the way to the President of the United States.

Based on the John Grisham novel of the same name, this political thriller is well-paced and manages to keep the viewers attention throughout. Both Roberts and Washington were rising stars at the time and do great work with the material. The story itself remains relevant, even all these years later, since it’s not too hard to see a high-ranking politician ordering/being complicit in an assassination for financial and/or political gain.

There aren’t many special effects beyond background filler, which isn’t very noticeable.

This movie is something of an underrated gem. While it may not be as flashy as some action movies, it offers a well-paced story with a decent ticking clock. One of the few flaws was a character who was supposedly protecting Darby, though that wasn’t made completely clear. Other than that, this is a movie most people should enjoy, even if it’s just to get a glimpse of two stars before they were mega-famous.

The Pelican Brief is currently not available to stream anywhere, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased through a participating store or on-line retailer.

Hanna

Hanna

Directed By: Joe Wright
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, John Macmillan, Jessica Barden, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Tom Hollander, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: A-

Sixteen year old Hanna Heller was raised in isolation by her father Erik, so he could train her to be the ultimate killing machine. When she feels she’s ready, she activates a beacon that brings the CIA to their doorstep, and begins her ultimate mission of taking down Marissa Wiegler, Erik’s former handler with the CIA, whom Hanna believes to be behind the death of her mother. As Hanna tracks Wiegler, she also makes her way back to Germany to make contact with a friend of her father’s, and in the process gets her first taste of the outside world. Despite making new friends, Hanna’s mission takes precedent, and her cat and mouse game with Wiegler comes to a deadly and explosive head.

As far as action thrillers go, this movie was incredibly well done. The basic plot isn’t too far outside the realm of believability, especially given that the program Hanna was meant to be in seems to have been developed in the wake of the Cold War. The acting is well done, and the characters seem to work well together. Cate Blanchett’s southern accent gets a bit annoying after a while. Saoirse Ronan does an excellent job of balancing near-psychopathic tendencies with a genuine curiosity in the world she’s experiencing for the first time.

There aren’t too many effects used, and what little there is isn’t really noticeable.

This is an excellent movie that I would highly recommend. The story and characters are well developed, and the violence isn’t overwhelming. Even people who don’t generally enjoy action movies should enjoy this one.

Hanna is currently not available to stream anywhere, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased through a participating store or on-line retailer.

Demonic

Demonic

Directed By: Will Canon
Starring: Maria Bello, Frank Grillo, Cody Horn, Dustin Milligan, Scott Mechlowicz, Aaron Yoo, Megan Park, Alex Goode, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: C+

When Detective Mark Lewis is called to a crime scene at an abandon house, he arrives to find three dead bodies and an unconscious man in one of the bedrooms. He calls in his girlfriend, police psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Klein, to interview the young man, who says his name is John, as Detective Lewis and the other officers called to the scene attempt to find evidence that will help them piece together what happened and tell them whether John is an innocent victim or the perpetrator of the brutal murders. John recounts what he can remember about the previous night, as well as the events that lead to John and his friends being in the house, eventually revealing that John’s girlfriend, Michelle, and her exboyfriend/the group’s leader, Paul, are missing. As the night progresses and evidence is pieced together, Detective Lewis and Dr. Klein slowly learn the troubling truth behind the events that occurred in the house.

This was a semi-decent horror/thriller that tended to drift between being actually good and just bad. While the storyline is a tried and true staple of the genre (young people investigate haunted house, get more than they bargained for), the constant switching between found footage and traditional camera styles gets a little grating after a while. They should have picked one and ran with it. I’m sure they could have figured out a way around some of the scenes that would have called for a different type of camera style. The story itself gets a few points for originality, even if it does occasionally dip into predictable.

Most of the special effects involve seeing ghosts on a camera screen and/or appear to be practically done. The background filler is what little CGI is used aren’t really noticeable.

I’d say that this is worth at least one watch, and might be something that people who don’t usually watch horror movies could watch without getting too freaked out. There are one or two jump scares, but the majority of the movie is fairly tame.

Demonic is currently available free to stream through Netflix, and can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased through a participating store or on-line retailer.