REVIEW: BLACK PANTHER (2018)

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BLACK PANTHER (2018)

Black Panther is the latest edition to the MCU and once again Marvel comes up with a way to keep this series fresh after ten years and eighteen films. The movie opens with a brief introduction to the history of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. It tells of the fateful meteorite landing which introduced the miracle metal vibranium to the land, which transformed Wakanda into a technically advanced civilization. They’ve long kept hidden their technology from the world, though, to prevent ill use of their weaponry. Enter the newly crowned King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who is also The Black Panther, Wakanda’s protector as well as ruler. While still mourning the death of his father, T’Challa finds out a hard truth about the death of his uncle and of a cousin he didn’t know he had…a cousin known as the mercenary Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who wants to take the throne and use Wakanda’s arms technology to start a global revolution.

This sometimes stunning film is directed by Ryan Coogler from a script by he and Joe Robert Cole. Coogler has a wonderfully sumptuous visual eye and making full use of African cultural influence turns this into a film worth seeing for the sights alone. His script with Cole takes things deeper than that with a story rich in depth, not only in it’s cultural surroundings but in the political, racial and social issues effecting it’s African characters and the continent’s descendants around the world. It weaves this context into it’s action/adventure story-line very well, so it’s never preaching, but the issues are boldly there. It represents those who have a more aggressive way of dealing with these issues in it’s antagonist N’Jadaka / Killmonger and those who see a more peaceful solution in it’s hero T’Challa. It also doesn’t shy away from the fact that these differences can pit brother against brother, too. Black Panther is still also very much a superhero movie and we gets some spectacular action, some amazing gadgets and even a James Bond-ish trip to South Korea, where T’Challa meets old friend Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) and old foe Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) who is aligned with Killmonger. Panther is given some wonderful support in his sister Suri (Letitia Wright) who is technology savvy and is the “Q” to T’Challa’s Bond. There is king’s bodyguard Okoye (Danai Gurira) who is Wakanda’s greatest warrior, elder Zuri (Forest Whitaker) and his proud and strong mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett). The SPFX are amazing, there is a wonderfully African infused soundtrack by Ludwig Göransson and some beautifully realized dream sequences that add even more depth to a film that has spirit and heart as well as action.

Simply put this movie also has a great cast. Boseman is a perfect fit for a character that has to be ruler, hero and diplomat, as well as, simply a man. He is charming, handsome and gives the heavily burdened T’Challa a sense of humor and warmth as well. Michael B. Jordan is solid as his vengeful cousin known as Killmonger. Jordan is usually in the role of hero or nice guy and here he shows he can be a bad-ass too. N’Jadaka is a street smart killer raised in America and he brings that urban edge to his warrior with a mission. His purpose may have a bit of a noble center, but it’s his methods and ruthless execution of them are what make him a villain. Serkis is fun as Klaue, following-up his amusing part in Age of Ultron and it’s too bad his part here is almost as small. He’s a fun and eccentric bad guy. Letitia Wright is cute and energetic as T’Challa’s genius sister Suri and Danai Gurira is a blast as warrior woman, Okoye. She’s a powerhouse and deserves her own movie. Rounding out are strong characterizations from Freeman as Ross, Angela Bassett as Ramonda and Forest Whitaker as the noble Zuri. There is also a cool post credits cameo I won’t spoil.

Once again Marvel has delivered a splendid entertainment that is at once a story with it’s own heart, soul and purpose and yet fits well into the MCU game plan. There are political and racial issues weaved into T’Challa’s first solo flick and it is as energetic and exciting as it is thought provoking. Ryan Coogler is a director who has not only a brilliant visual style but can make popcorn entertainment that is also food for thought. A delightfully entertaining movie with some well appreciated heart and depth. As always, stay through the entire credits for two extra scenes.

-MonsterZero NJ

rated 3 and 1/2 black panthers.

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES FEB. 16-18

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

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

1. “Black Panther” $192 Million

2. “Peter Rabbit” $17.25 Million

3. “Fifty Shades Freed’ $16.9 Million

4. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” $7.9 Million

5. “The 15:17 to Paris” $7.7 Million

6. “The Greatest Showman” $5.1 Million

7. “Early Man” $3.1 Million

8. “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” $2.5 Million

9. “Winchester” $2.2 Million

 

10. “Samson” $1.9 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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BARE BONES: A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013)

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A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013)

Decided to take this old review out of mothballs and reprint it here. Was I the only person to have fun with this flick?-MZNJ

A Good Day To Die Hard has a lot of problems. The story is convoluted, the villains are weak and when the action stops there isn’t enough strong drama to keep us interested. Thankfully, the action rarely stops and it is quite amusingly over the top. This entry has John McClane (Bruce Willis) traveling to Moscow to try to see his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney) who has been arrested for murder. But what McClane doesn’t know is that Jack is a CIA agent and involved in a mission to bust a Russian millionaire (Sebastian Koch), with ties to terrorism, out of jail to get the 411 on his partner…who also has his own plans to bust him out of jail. It’s no secret that McClane gets in the middle of things and once again becomes the fly in the ointment of all this Russian cloak and dagger. The result is the destruction of half of Moscow and what’s left of Chernobyl to boot.

The story by Skip Woods is as much of a mess as it sounds, but I still had a blast watching the father and son duo wreck the former Soviet Union to stop the bad guys. As directed by John Moore, the action scenes are ridiculously over the top and it’s still fun to watch Willis kick butt, even though his one-liners are getting tired and he gives you the impression that so is he of all this nonsense. How many times CAN one man get into so much trouble unintentionally? At least it’s part of James Bond’s job. It’s the stuff between the action that has us looking at our watches, as the dialog is weak and I can’t understand how a guy who is such a kick-ass hero can be hated so much by his kids. If my dad whacked terrorists on a regular basis and constantly blew stuff up, I’d probably think he was pretty cool. The villains never seem threatening enough to make us believe they stand a chance against the McClane family. I still enjoyed seeing them try only to get their asses handed to them by Willis and Courtney, who could have a future as an action star. If there is a Die Hard 6, I hope they give daughter, Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) a catsuit and a gun to join in the fun. Why not? Go in with moderate expectations and turn off the brain and enjoy the fireworks, because that’s basically what this movie has to offer and on that level it can be a fun matinee if you just don’t look for another classic like the original installment.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S TOP FAN-BOY MOVIE FANTASY VALENTINE’S!

Would we spend Valentine’s Day ❤ with Doomsday’s Eden Sinclair…even if it kills us…and it might.

MONSTERZERO NJ’S TOP FAN-BOY MOVIE FANTASY VALENTINE’S!

It’s THAT day again and I thought I’d have some fun with it this year. As film lovers we all have our favorite type of movie cutie and if you are single on this annoying holiday, shed no tears! Pull up a chair and fire up the DVD/Blu-Ray player and spend the day with one (or more) of these favorite type of fan-boy…or fan-girl?…movie fantasy Valentines! (Remember folks, this is ALL in fun!)

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE THRONE OF FIRE (1983)

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THE THRONE OF FIRE (1983)

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

Italian sword and sorcery flick has The Devil’s messenger, Belial (Harrison Muller) demanding witch, Azira (Beni Cardoso) bear him a child. He takes her, and after a thunder and lightening filled birth sequence, she bares him a cheesy rubber creature. The baby grows up into the powerful…and human looking…warlord, Morak (also Muller) whose mission is to kill the king and take his throne. It’s not just any throne, however, it is the Throne of Fire and only a rightful ruler may sit on it. Anyone else will be incinerated. To be worthy, he must marry the king’s daughter, the very reluctant Princess Valkari (Sabrina Siani) during a solar eclipse. Standing in his way is the warrior Siegfried (Pietro Torrisi, billed as Peter McCoy) who vows to free the princess and slay Morak.

In the 80s, the Italian cinema took advantage of any trend and cranked out Escape From N.Y. rip-offs, Road Warrior rip-offs, dozens of zombie films after Dawn of the Dead…and numerous Conan imitations, this being one. Throne…or Il trono di fuoco in it’s original Italianis directed by Franco Prosperi from a script by Nino Marino and is a cheesy, fun movie despite the serious tone. The sets look like they are from an episode of Star Trek, the fight scenes are badly choreographed and the dialogue, terrible and obviously dubbed…just listen to Morak happily reassuring his mom that he will slay women and children to get to the throne. Good times! Hero Siegfried is a muscular, bare-chested champion direct out of the Conan/Hercules clone catalogue and villain Morak’s army of thugs always attack him one at a time. We also get sexy, blonde, scantily-clad warrior princess Valkari, as played by Sabrina Siani, who seemed to be the Italian cinema’s go-to barbarian chick in the 80s. There is sorcery along with all the swordplay, including a spooky visit to the aptly named Well of Madness and various spells, both good and bad. The film is an amusing series of pitiful escapes and recaptures, taking place in and around the same castle, till the final confrontation which begs the question that if Morak could place the defiant Valkari under his spell, why did he wait till the end of the movie to do it? Who cares!…as long as we get to see people on the royal hot seat go up in flames every now and then. Wooden acting and wooden swords, it’s all a lot of cheesy fun with equally cheesy FX to go along with it.

Far from a classic…or even a good movie…Throne of Fire is a lot of “so bad it’s good” fun with swords and sorcery, muscles and maidens, all done with low budget ineptitude, but with plenty of dubbed charm. If nothing else, we have our loincloth wearing hero and animal-skin bikini clad heroine to provide eye candy, depending on your barbarian babe preference.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 warrior princesses before Xena made them cool.

 

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HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WOLF CREEK season 2 (2017)

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WOLF CREEK season 2 (2017)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Wolf Creek is a cult classic 2005 Australian horror from writer/director Greg McLean that introduced the world to homicidal Outback redneck Mick Taylor (John Jarratt). The film gained notoriety, but took till 2013 to produce a sequel and now, has brought us two seasons of an episodic web show. This second season finds a group of people on an Outback safari tour crossing paths with the Down Under psychopath. Mick hijacks the tour bus into the middle of nowhere and begins to hunt and slaughter it’s occupants as they fight to survive the harsh wilderness.

Second season is again six episodes with Wolf Creek creator Greg McLean once more returning to direct episodes and produce. The series continues to follow the dark, gritty, but more grounded tone of the original film, which made it so effective. Like the first season, it does feel a bit like a movie plot stretched out over five hours, but it manages it’s time well enough to never feel boring or repetitive. The added time of a mini-series let’s us get to know Mick’s potential victims very well, so they are more than just serial killer fodder. The show can be violent and brutal at times, but never goes over the top or gets campy. Mick is as intimidating as ever, with his off-color vulgarity and deranged sense of humor just making him even more disturbing. Where the first season was a story or retribution and revenge, this one is a tale of survival, as Mick strands the tourists in the middle of nowhere setting them against the elements and after a while, each other. Not to mention he’s constantly stalking them and anyone that comes in contact with them. As such, there are some innocents caught in the crossfire, like some Aborigine tribesman and a family living in an abandoned mining complex. It’s a bloody and effective journey till the inevitable showdown back at Mick’s lair, which has a few surprises waiting for us.

The cast are all good and once again we get an assortment of offbeat characters, like the strong-willed Rebecca (Tess Haubrich), criminal psychologist Brian (Matt Price), tattooed lesbian Kelly (Laura Wheelwright) and German tourists Oskar (Julian Pulvermacher) and Nina (Felicity Price). John Jarratt still plays Mick Taylor with the usual viciousness, intensity and gusto. He can play this role in his sleep at this point, but most certainly doesn’t as the character still disturbs us intensely.

In conclusion, the second season maintained the quality of the first season and gave us a different story with all new characters aside from Mick. Sure, it still feels like a movie plot stretched out over a longer running time, but managed it’s time a bit better, so less sequences felt like filler. It was intense at times and bloody and there was some nice suspense as Mick methodically thins the heard. Serial killer Mick Taylor hasn’t warn out his welcome yet and if there is a season three…and I won’t spoil if this season leaves us with that possibility…as Mick would say, I reckon I’d have to tune in!

Wolf Creek: The Series is available on the streaming service Stan.

EPISODE LIST

  1. Journey – directed by Greg McLean and written by Nick Parsons
  2. Outback – directed by Greg McLean and written by Shanti Gudgeon
  3. Chase – directed by Kieran Darcy-Smith and written by Nick Parsons
  4. Singing – directed by Kieran Darcy-Smith and written by Mark Dapin & Greg Haddrick
  5. Shelter – directed by Geoff Bennett and written by Shanti Gudgeon
  6. Return – directed by Geoff Bennett and written by Mark Dapin & Greg Haddrick

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated a solid 3 Micks.
wolf creek rating

 

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES FEB. 9-11

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

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

1. “Fifty Shades Freed” $38.8 Million

2. “Peter Rabbit” $25 Million

3. “The 15:17 to Paris” $12.6 Million

4. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” $9.8 Million

5. “The Greatest Showman” $6.4 Million

6. “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” $6 Million

7. “Winchester” $5 Million

8. “The Post” $3.5 Million

9. “The Shape of Water” $3 Million

10. “Den of Thieves” $2.8 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE UNSEEN (1980)

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THE UNSEEN (1980)

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

Exceptionally boring horror finds a newswoman, her sister and a friend (Barbara Bach, Karen Lamm and Lois Young respectively) heading to a small town to cover an event and a mix-up leaving them with no place to stay. They stumble upon an old house, that is now used as a museum and creepy owner Ernest Keller (Sydney Lassick), invites them to use his spare rooms. So, of course, three pretty girls accept an invitation to stay in a spooky old house with a man who is creepy from the get go. No surprise, this old house has a secret and the three young women will soon find out it is a deadly secret.

As directed by Danny Steinmann (Friday the 13 Part V) from a script by Michael L. Grace, this is a dull flick with basically little going on, including a dismally low body count for a slasher and very little blood and gore. It takes almost the whole movie to finally gather a little intensity, when Bach’s reporter Jennifer finds herself in the cellar with the Keller’s hulking secret (Animal House’s Stephen Furst). Unfortunately the hulking secret is more laughable than menacing, so there really isn’t much to make up for the slow pace and lack of suspense we have endured up to this point. Sure, the house is spooky and Lassick’s Keller can be very unsettling, but it’s not enough to make this film scary or even involving and our three lasses aren’t endearing enough to get us emotionally invested. Silent Scream did the whole hidden, crazy relative in the house thing a whole lot better that same year.

Despite what should have been a star making turn in The Spy Who Loved Me, Bach’s career never really went anywhere. She’s a bit wooden here and isn’t really that memorable as a final girl when she finally meets “Junior”. As Junior, it’s almost sad to see Stephen Furst, who gained notoriety as Flounder in Animal House, as, basically, a giant, deranged baby and the effect of his tantrums and efforts to kill Bach are laughable with the way the character is directed. It’s Sydney Lassick who is really creepy and even he goes a bit too over-the-top at times to remain effective. Lamm and Young are fine as Bach’s companions and Lelia Goldoni is sympathetic as Ernest’s abused sister/lover and mother of Junior.

This flick has a reputation, not sure why, but there is something about 80s horrors, even the worst have some sort of following. It was a great decade for horror. This one, however, is dull and even when it picks up, it provides unintentional laughs instead of chills. Barbara Bach shows little of the fire she showed as a Bond girl and the late Stephen Furst’s role is more embarrassing than memorable. I suppose if you’re an 80s completest, you should at least check it out, but don’t expect much.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 very large diapers.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE RITUAL (2017)

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THE RITUAL (2017)

Based on a book by Adam Nevill, this chiller finds four friends traveling deep into the Swedish wilderness on a hiking excursion while mourning the death of a fifth member of their group. Deep in the woods they find a supernatural entity presides there, one worshiped as a deity by the locals and who feeds on the mental…and physical…pain of it’s sacrifices…and anyone wondering into it’s territory qualifies as a sacrifice.

Film, directed by David Bruckner (the Amateur Night segment of V/H/S) from Joe Barton’s script, which is based on Nevill’s novel, evokes mixed feelings. On one hand it is basically The Blair Witch Project meets The Wicker Man (original version, of course) and thus is very familiar. On the other hand, Bruckner does conjure up some spooky sequences and the film has a very unsettling visual style, especially in the last act when it’s wendigo-like deity makes it’s appearance. There are scenes directly lifted from The Blair Witch Project with symbols found carved on trees, strange formations made from sticks and antlers and characters screaming in the distance as something unseen drags them away. There is a spooky cabin in the woods and even a witch. We do, however, also get some gory stuff with animals and people found gutted and hanging from trees and some very unsettling dream sequences, especially from lead Luke (Rafe Spall) who feels guilty over his friend’s death. It turns full blown into The Wicker Man in it’s last act, when the surviving hikers are taken to a village lost in time, where they are to be sacrificed to whatever lurks among the trees. Once the thing shows up, Bruckner gets some good effect from the spirit creature’s look and ferocity and the fight to escape it by the remaining characters. The movie is atmospheric and the small cast perform their clichéd roles well. There is a spooky score by Ben Lovett and some really effective cinematography from Andrew Shulkind to add to it’s overall effectiveness.

This film was a bit hard to rate as it is very effective in terms of it’s atmosphere, it’s spooky visuals and some effectively creepy moments from director Bruckner, but constantly reminds us of other movies. It does use the familiar elements to do it’s own thing, but also borrow heavily from some widely renown films. It’s definitely worth a look, but go in knowing you’ve seen a lot of it before. Also stars Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier and Sam Troughton as Luke’s three friends. Film is currently streaming on Netflix.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 deer.

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BARE BONES: BATTLE OF THE SEXES (2017)

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BATTLE OF THE SEXES (2017)

A great cast highlights this retelling of the epic “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King in 1973 during the height of the Women’s Liberation movement. It takes us on the journey leading up to the match, with up and coming female tennis player Billie Jean King fighting for equality within the pro tennis circuit and retired champ and gambler Bobby Riggs looking for a return to glory and a big payday.

Film is written by Simon Beaufoy and directed by Little Miss Sunshine duo Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton and is perfectly cast, especially in regards to it’s leads. Stone and Carell play King and Riggs spot on with Carell really enjoying Riggs’ attempts to “put the show in chauvinism”. If the film falters a bit it’s that it’s first half leading up to the challenge is a bit drab. It focuses a lot on the married King’s affair with a female hairdresser (Andrea Riseborough) and her attempts to start her own tennis tournament with World Tennis Magazine founder, Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman). It is very heavy on melodrama and is a bit dreary at times. It picks up in the second half when King finally accepts Riggs’ challenge and the lead-up to the match becomes a media circus and a major event. The second half has the energy and spark, that the first half was lacking, though those early story elements are of importance to the overall tale. Even knowing how the actual event ended, it’s still a lot of fun to watch this great cast play it out and makes this film so worth seeing. Also stars Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming and Elisabeth Shue as Riggs’ wife Priscilla.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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