WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES NOV 15-17

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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. “Ford v Ferarri” $31 Million

2. “Midway” $8.75 Million

3. “Charlies Angels” $8.6 Million

4. “Playing With Fire” $8.55 Million

5. “Last Christmas” $6.7 Million

6. “Doctor Sleep” $6.2 Million

7. “The Good Liar” $5.65 Million

8. “Joker” $5.6 Million

9. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” $5.2 Million

10. “Harriet” $4.8 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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IT CAME FROM ASIAN CINEMA: SWEET HOME (1989)

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SWEET HOME (1989)

Hard to find haunted house flick has TV producer Kazuo Hoshino (Shingo Yamashiro) bringing a crew to the supposedly haunted Mamiya mansion that has been sealed for thirty years. It was the home of famed artist Ichirō Mamiya and Kazuo believes his final works rest inside. Along for the production are his daughter Emi (Nokko), reporter Asuka (Fukumi Kuroda), cinematographer Ryō Taguchi (Ichiro Furutachi) and Akiko Hayakawa (Nobuko Miyamoto) his producer whom he has feelings for. Once inside they find that all the rumors are horribly true as a terrible incident decades earlier has left a vengeful spirit lurking inside the mansion.

Film is written and directed very effectively by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. All the haunted house traditions are present with the mansion itself being a very spooky and deserted place. There is a tragic backstory to give our haunting it’s purpose and a group of individuals who refuse to believe the folklore of the house, until it’s too late. Stormy nights, grotesque phantoms and some gory deaths are presented in a very entertaining fashion with Kiyoshi Kurosawa giving us just enough time to get to know the characters before the spooks hit the fan. It even has an old gas station attendant, Yamamura (producer Jûzô Itami), to give the traditional warnings and exposition. It’s a lot of spooky and gruesome fun and the make-up effects are not only nostalgically practical, it was the 80s after all, but done by make-up effects legend Dick Smith. When we finally see Lady Mamiya’s spirit in full view, it doesn’t disappoint. There are some chills, thrills, some blood spilled and a very exciting and suspenseful climax, as our survivors face the angry spirit head-on. You even need to watch through the credits for something extra. It’s a very entertaining haunted house flick that can stand on it’s own up against flicks like Poltergeist which set a standard in the 80s. Atmospherically directed, the house setting itself is great and there is just enough humor to make it fun without offsetting the scares. Despite being a familiar tale, the movie has it’s own creepy identity and likable characters to fear for.

As those characters, we have a solid cast. Yamashiro is good as Hoshino. He’s a likable guy and avoids the arrogance most characters like this carry. His intentions are good. Popstar Nokko is endearing as Hoshino’s teen daughter Emi. She’s rebellious, though not annoying and serves as a damsel in distress in the final act. Nobuko Miyamoto is widower Hoshino’s producer. A pretty woman he has feelings for and a strong heroine when all Hell breaks loose. Ichiro Furutachi and Fukumi Kuroda are fine in their roles, though they serve more as body count. Rounding out is producer Jûzô Itami, who is good in the classic role as Yamamura. An efficient and likable cast.

In conclusion, this flick desperately needs a blu-ray release! It was spooky, gory fun and had a likable group of characters ignoring the classic warnings to suffer the consequences. There were some great practical make-up FX from the late, great Dick Smith and a very creepy house where it’s paranormal action takes place. A very solid and old fashioned haunted house flick from Japan.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 (out of 4) spooks

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: 47 METERS DOWN-UNCAGED (2019)

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47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED (2019)

Sequel to the fun Mandy Moore vs sharks epic, 47 Meters Down is basically Jaws meets The Descent and takes place in Yucatán, Mexico. A group of four pretty girls, Mia (Sophie Nélisse), Sasha (Corinne Foxx, daughter of Jamie Foxx), Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Sly’s daughter, Sistine Stallone) decide to forgo the boat tour they are supposed to be on and go scuba diving in a flooded underground Mayan temple Mia’s dad (John Corbett) is exploring. Once the four get inside, they become trapped and are pursued by the blind, albino great white sharks that live inside the temple catacombs.

Directed by Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down, Strangers: Prey at Night) from a script he co-wrote with Ernest Riera, it’s a silly but fun sequel. Uncaged takes itself just serious enough and plays a lot like Neil Marshall’s chiller with our scantily clad heroines using both silence and sound to evade the great whites, who are blind due to living in darkness all this time. It’s entertaining nonsense as our ladies seek to escape when accidentally sealed in and are running out of air. The leading ladies are charming, pretty and likable enough, so we don’t especially want to see them become shark food and the flick does try to keep us in suspense as to if and when any of our adorable ladies will become dinner. This is a shark flick after all and the movie does provide some gruesome chow downs. Other divers are present to serve as food for our predators and one character appears and then is eaten so fast, there is no question as to why they were even there, except for the obvious reason of a great white happy meal. There are also some amusing conveniences, too, as characters who can be of any assistance in the girl’s escape are devoured at just the right crucial moments. Not as gripping as the surprisingly solid thriller the first flick was, but still mindless entertainment if you let it be and the last act is pretty much non-stop action. Silly and cliché, but a fun time.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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REVIEW: JOKER (2019)

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JOKER (2019)

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

Joker is a daring and provocative origin story from DC tracing the beginnings of one of the greatest comic book villains of all time, back to one Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix). Fleck is a man with issues of mental illness who lives with his mother, Penny (Frances Conroy), goes to therapy and works as a clown at a low level entertainment company. Arthur has dreams of being a stand-up comedian and delusions of grandeur, like being on the Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) Show. Arthur has a hard life and is picked on and beaten up by the thugs in a lawless Gotham City. Things start to change for Arthur, both good and bad, when he uses a gun he’s given by a coworker to defend himself, against three young and abusive Wall Street types on the subway. An uprising of the haves vs the have-nots ignites in Gotham over the incident, with clown faces as the symbol of those deprived of a better life. This fuels Arthur’s inner rage and delusional nature and starts him on the road to becoming the clown prince of crime we all know.

Joker is exceptionally directed by Todd Phillips and written by he and Scott SIlver and is a disturbing and dark take on the origins of a super villain. Phillips makes the movie all the more effective by keeping it grounded and the lack of an over-the-top comic book style, makes the portrayal more realistic, thus relatable, and intense. Gotham is not a Blade Runner-esque city, but a New York of the early 80s with crime, decadence and filth at an all-time high. Arthur is disturbed as it is, but is constantly pushed, picked on and preyed upon by Gotham’s dirty underbelly and apathetic elite. Arthur’s mental illness is treated head on by the script and we do feel bad for him as he grew up in an environment with a single mother with her own mental issues, along with her abusive boyfriends. The city of Gotham pushes him till he snaps and a madman is created. Fans fear not, as the links to the Dark Knight are there. Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen) is running for mayor and not only is Arthur told the delusion by his mother that he is Wayne’s illegitimate son, he also meets young Bruce (Dante Pereira-Olson) when he tries to talk to his “dad” at Wayne Manor. The death of Bruce’s parents is also part of the goings on and signals what is to come for both young Mr. Wayne and Arthur who comes to want to be known only as “Joker”. It adds up to a dark and fascinating look at abuse, mental illness and how it drives one meek fellow to becoming a violent and quite unhinged psychopath. It’s a unique take on one of the comics greatest villains and an intense and sometimes shocking comic book themed film. Be warned, there is graphic violence and it is treated without humor unlike in the R-rated Deadpool flicks.

Joaquin Phoenix is simply brilliant as Arthur Fleck/Joker. From his mannerisms, body movements and overall performance he is riveting as first a pathetic and sad man trying to exist in a world completely unsympathetic to his mental issues, to a man who finally finds his smile committing horrific acts. It is a career defining performance from an actor already known for his eclectic performances. Simply a brilliant portrayal. De Niro is good as talk show host Murray Franklin who sees footage of Arthur’s terrible stand-up and wants to exploit him for laughs. Zazie Beetz is sweet as his single mom neighbor whom Arthur’s forms a delusional attachment to. Brett Cullen is solid as Thomas Wayne, a man who the film boldly portrays as a bit of a rich a-hole, when he is far more saintly in other portrayals. The various supporting players including Frances Conroy as Arthur’s ill and fading mom Penny, are all top notch. A great cast!

In conclusion this is a powerful film whose bold and daring portrayal of a legendary comic book character’s beginnings makes it one of the most unique comic book themed films thus far. It features a masterful performance by it’s leading man and by using a grounded approach to the material, makes it far more real and thus ultimately frightening. Men like Arthur Fleck do exist outside the comic books. A great movie. One of the best of the year!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 (out of 4) clown masks.

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES NOV 8-10

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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. “Midway” $17.5 Million

2. “Doctor Sleep” $14.1 Million

3. “Playing With Fire” $12.8 Million

4. “Last Christmas” $11.6 Million

5. “Terminator: Dark Fate” $10.8 Million

6. “Joker” $9.2 Million

7. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” $8 Million

8. “Harriet” $7.2 Million

9. “Zombieland 2: Double Tap” $4.3 Million

10. “The Addams Family” $4.2 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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REVIEW: DOCTOR SLEEP (2019)

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DOCTOR SLEEP (2019)

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

Doctor Sleep is an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel which in itself is a sequel to The Shining. The film picks up in 1980 shortly after the events of the first film/book with Danny (Roger Dale Floyd) and his mother Wendy (Alex Essoe), who are both still traumatized from their stay at the Overlook Hotel. Danny is especially troubled because of his psychic abilities and what they attract. It then moves forward to 2011 where Danny is now an adult (Ewan McGregor) and an alcoholic mess of one at that, still trying to get over his emotional scars. He joins AA and gets a job at a hospice where he finds he can bring solace to the terminally ill residents. The film finally settles in presented day, with Dan now clean and sober, but being contacted by a girl with similar abilities named Abra (Kyliegh Curran). Unknown, at first, to Dan and Abra, a sinister group called the True Knot, who feed upon the powers of people with such abilities, are hunting Abra down. This eventually leads Dan and Abra back to the dreaded Overlook Hotel for a showdown with True Knot’s powerful leader Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and the spirits that still linger there.

Adaptation is written and directed by Mike Flanagan, who did the brilliant Gerald’s Game adaptation for Netflix and is one of the most innovative writer/directors in horror right now. Here he creates what is more of a dark fantasy than straight up horror with some clever representations of the various abilities of both those with Shining and the True Knot. The recreations of events, places and characters from Stanley Kubrick’s film are really on point, too and a lot of fun with some inspired casting, such as Starry Eyes’ Alex Essoe as Wendy and Carl Lumbly as Hallorann. If anything holds this intriguing and entertaining film back a bit, it’s that it feels like one must have read both Stephen King’s books to really appreciate the mythos being created here. Maybe this flick needed to be in two parts like the It adaptation, as it feels like certain things needed more attention, such as who or what really are the True Knot, and Abra and Dan’s friendship could have been fleshed out a bit more for it to resonate. Still, Flanagan has a solid script and is a good editor in cutting his own material, but here it just feels like there wasn’t enough of certain elements to really emotionally involve the uninitiated viewer not familiar with King’s books. The audience in attendance was very quiet and seemed a bit detached from the film. The flick does earn it’s R rating. There is graphic violence and some disturbing sequences, especially when the True Knot kidnap and murder a young boy (Jacob Trembly), and the final conflict had intensity and chills. It’s just, overall, the flick didn’t inspire a strong emotional investment to really get one involved in what was going on…unless there was already an invested interest in the material going in. A first for a Flanagan film, which are usually emotionally gripping and intense like Gerald’s Game and Hush. The FX are very well done and there are some really wild sequences, like Abra taking on Rose who’s not used to being challenged. At 152 minutes it’s not boring, there is an atmospheric score by the Newton Brothers and Flanagan’s visual style is well represented by Michael Fimognari’s cinematography. It just it wasn’t as gripping as it needed to be, despite all that Flanagan gets right…and he gets a lot right, here.

Flanagan has a great cast and the characters are well written. Ewan McGregor is very good as the adult Danny, who becomes a reluctant hero, of sorts, when the True Knot come after Abra. His downward spiral as an alcoholic and eventual recovery to the point where he is selfless enough to combat Rose, is well played by the veteran actor. As Rose, Rebecca Furguson steals the film as the sinister yet smolderingly sexy True Knot leader. A devious yet powerful woman and one who will commit horribly acts without question to keep she and her followers “fed.” Kyliegh Curran is very good as Abra, a powerful young teen in her own right. The actress gives her the strength needed to believe in her abilities, yet still keeps her a relatable teen. Cliff Curtis is also very good as Dan’s only friend and AA support, Billy. There are some familiar faces in the supporting cast, such as House of the Devil’s Jocelin Donahue as Abra’s mom, the before mentioned Alex Essoe as Wendy, Henry Thomas in a role not to be spoiled here and Bruce Greenwood as Dan’s AA group leader. Sadly, Greenwood’s likable Dr. John Dalton character just disappears and one questions his inclusion at all.

Overall, this was an entertaining film, though not as engrossing as it should have been. Flanagan directs solidly with a clever and innovative script, but doesn’t quite get the emotional investment needed from those not already familiar with King’s material and characters. There are some intense and disturbing sequences and the dark fantasy element works so very well, but something was still missing for those of us who haven’t read the books. It did have a strong villainess and it was spooky fun to revisit the Overlook Hotel again. A good movie, but as the end credits roll, one feels it should have been more.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) hats.

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: SPIDERHOLE (2009)

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SPIDERHOLE (2009)

Spiderhole is a British horror thriller about a group of four young squatters who break into an abandoned house to live in. Unfortunately for them, there is already an occupant and he doesn’t want them to leave…ever.

Spiderhole is technically well made, but it’s nothing new, nor is it done in a way to make it fresh. The four leads are dull and not particularly endearing or likable, so right there we have no emotional investment to care about their well being, which is a common mistake in horror films these days. When the film is not following them around the maze-like house, it’s being a routine torture show as the creepy plastic wearing occupant one by one captures them for some very nasty surgery. We never get to know much about this sick surgeon, not enough to give him the kind of presence or threat he needed to be effective. In fact we never really feel any dread or suspense despite the fact that he is always lurking about. Aside from our emotional detachment to the leads, the film never builds any atmosphere or a sense of danger with it’s by-the-numbers presentation of it’s story. Director and writer Daniel Simpson has a very point and shoot style that creates none of the mood this film needed to get past it’s tired plot. As a result, Spiderhole is an empty hole.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: THE NIGHTINGALE (2018)

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THE NIGHTINGALE (2018)

Flick takes place in the British penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land, which is now Tasmania, during the 19th century. An Irish couple, Clare (Aisling Franciosi) and Aiden (Michael Sheasby) are serving sentence there, along with their infant child and awaiting release. Clare has captured the eye of ambitious British Officer Hawkins (Sam Clafin) who is postponing her release and one night takes horrible advantage of her. This sets off a confrontation with Aiden, in front of a superior office, that causes Hawkins professional harm. In a fit of rage, Hawkins and his men rape Clare, again and kill her husband and child. As Hawkins travels to an outpost in search of securing promotion, Clare sets off in pursuit for revenge across wild lands with only native Aboriginal guide, Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) as company.

Australian period piece is written and directed with a very heavy hand by The Babadook’s Jennifer Kent. We understand going in this is not an action film, or Charles Bronson-esque revenge flick, but even so, the pace is dreadfully slow and the film simply about a half hour too long. The messages about the treatment of women and the terrible treatment of native Aboriginal peoples are well intended, but just because you have something important to say, doesn’t mean the audience should be bludgeoned with these messages for over two hours. Did we really have to endure Clare being brutally raped twice? We got the point the first time. The rape and murder of an Aboriginal tribeswoman also seems gratuitous, as by that point we understand that Hawkins and his thugs (Damon Herriman and Harry Greenwood) are horrible people and the black Aboriginals are treated awfully by the British and white locals. We get these messages clearly early on, but Kent keeps hammering away to make sure. It’s a well made film and the cast, especially leads Franciosi, Clafin and Ganambarr, give strong performances, but it’s also a tedious, heavy handed and meandering movie, even if well intended.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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IT CAME FROM ASIAN CINEMA: MICHIO YAMAMOTO’S BLOODTHIRSTY TRILOGY

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MICHIO YAMAMOTO’S BLOODTHIRSTY TRILOGY

Between 1970 and 1974 Toho Studios produced three vampire movies under the guidance of director Michio Yamamoto. The director had only one feature film under his belt before these flicks, a crime drama for Toho, and despite how well these turned out, he would come to direct only one other full length film. While certainly Japanese productions, this trio of vampire flicks display a lot of the traditions of the genre, with coffins, gothic houses, ghoulish villains, spooky and sexy vampire girls, along with beautiful damsels and brave heroes. They feature some familiar Toho faces and have become known as The Bloodthirsty Trilogy. These three vampire flicks from the legendary studio are certainly worth a look by any vampire or horror movie fan.

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THE VAMPIRE DOLL (1970)

First of the trilogy finds Kazuhiko (Atsuo Nakamura) returning from business abroad to visit his fiancé Yuko (Yukiko Kobayashi from Destroy All Monsters). Her mother (Yoko Minazake) tells him Yuko died in an accident, but then why is he seeing her at night? When Kazuhiko disappears, his sister Keiko (Shogun Assassin’s Kayo Matsuo) and her fiancé (Akira Nakao) go to Yuko’s home village to investigate. What they find is something out of a nightmare…one they may not wake up from.

The Vampire Doll (Chi o suu ningyo) is a spooky flick as directed by Yamamoto from a script by Ei Ogawa and Hiroshi Nagano. It’s almost a gothic fairy tale as a young woman from tragic beginnings walks the earth in death, in search of blood. It’s got loads of atmosphere, a few surprises, follows the classic tropes well and has a charming cast. Yukiko Kobayashi makes for a sexy yet scary vampire and Kayo Matsuo, a classic damsel in distress. There is some blood, but the film is mostly atmosphere and Yamamoto proves he has an effective visual style for such a tale.

Rated 3 (out of 4) fangs!

Yukiko Kobayashi as the young woman turned monster, Yuko.

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LAKE OF DRACULA (1971)

Second film (known as Noroi no yakata – Chi o suu me in Japan) finds pretty Akiko (Midori Fujita) still suffering from a childhood trauma that she experienced as a little girl in a spooky old house. The nightmare returns, when the fiendish man (Shin Kishida from 1974’s Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla) she saw back then, now stalks her lakeside village draining blood from his victims. Can her doctor boyfriend (Osahide Takahashi) save her and her sister (Sanae Emi) from this bloodthirsty fiend?

Yamamoto’s second foray into vampire folklore is again written by Ei Ogawa, this time along with Masaru Takesue. Once more he delivers a film that is is atmospheric and spooky. Shin Kishida makes for a creepy vampire and the flick is filled with gothic visuals such as the expected old houses, coffins and fanged fiends. Here the vampire is said to be a descendant of Dracula, as his father had Dracula family blood in him. As usual in these films, our bloodsucker has some sexy vampire girls to accompany him. Another solid and spooky entry in this series.

3 (out of 4) fangs!

Shin Kishida as Lake of Dracula’s unnamed vampire.

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EVIL OF DRACULA (1974)

Final film in this trilogy shows Yamamoto is really sinking his teeth into vampire lore. It finds teacher Professor Shiraki (Toshio Kurosawa) journeying to his new job at an all girls school. Soon he finds trouble as someone, or something, is stalking the nubile young students and there have been disappearances. A disturbing first night at the recently widowed principal’s (Shin Kishida) house leads Shiraki to believe he’s involved. Shiraki’s beliefs may get him and pretty student Kumi (Mariko Mochizuki) killed, as the principal and his recently dead wife (Mika Katsuragi) may be something unearthly.

Evil of Dracula, or Chi o Sū Bara as it is known in Japan, is Yamamoto’s last vampire film for Toho and is again written by Ei Ogawa and Masaru Takesue. It’s fiend’s origin comes from a legend that a Westerner, who was shipwrecked in Japan centuries before, was cursed for denouncing his Christian faith and thus became a vampire. The flick is atmospheric, Kishida once again makes a creepy bloodsucker, though his vampire principal here is no relation to Lake of Dracula’s fiend, and Katsuragi is also effective as his vampire wife. There is nudity in this one, as our vampire prefers to bite his pretty victims on the breast and it might be the most gruesome with bloodletting and face stealing among the ghoulish activities. This was the last film in the trilogy, Toho seemingly quitting while they were ahead with three solid entries.

3 (out of 4) fangs!

Shin Kishida as the fiendish principal snacking on his students.

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In conclusion, this is a spooky and atmospheric series. Three stand alone films that have no connection other than the subject matter and actor Shin Kishida playing the lead vampire role twice. They were moderately paced, but none of them overstayed their welcome, with the longest being only 85 minutes. Yamamoto proved he had an eye for gothic visuals and gave us plenty of fangs, blood, creepy old houses and a bevy of pretty vampire girls. Despite doing a good job with these three flicks, Evil of Dracula would be his last feature film before doing some television work and then fading from the business.

All three Bloodthirsty Trilogy flicks are now available on Amazon Streaming and in a blu-ray set from Arrow Video.

Japan’s Christopher Lee? Shin Kishida sans make-up.

photo: https://wikizilla.org/

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 -MonsterZero NJ
Sources IMDB/Wikipedia

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES NOV 1-3

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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. “Terminator: Dark Fate” $29 Million

2. “Joker” $13.9 Million

3. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” $12.1 Million

4. “Harriet” $12 Million

5. “The Addams Family” $8.5 Million

6. “Zombieland 2: Double Tap” $7.35 Million

7. “Countdown” $5.85 Million

8. “Black and Blue” $4 Million

9. “Motherless Brooklyn” $3.65 Million

10. “Artic Dogs” $3.1 Million

 

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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