WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES FEB 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. “Alita: Battle Angel” $27.8 Million

2. “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” $21.2 Million

3. “Isn’t It Romantic” $14.2 Million

4. “What Men Want” $10.9 Million

5. “Happy Death Day 2U” $9.8 Million

6. “Cold Pursuit” $6 Million

7. “The Upside” $5.6 Million

8. “Glass” $3.85 Million

9. “The Prodigy” $3.15 Million

10. “Green Book” $2.75 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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REVIEW: ALITA-BATTLE ANGEL (2019)

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ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL (2019)

The summer movie season has started early and it has started with a bang! Alita: Battle Angel is a film adaptation of the Gunnm Manga series created by Yukito Kishiro. It’s produced by James Cameron and directed by Sin City’s Robert Rodriguez. The story has cyborg physician Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) finding the remains of a still active cyborg in a junk heap. Made to resemble a teenage girl, the doctor restores his discovery using a cybernetic body meant for his invalid daughter, who is now dead. He names her Alita after his little girl and soon the two bond as Alita (Rosa Salazar) tries to figure out who she is. Along the way Alita falls for street hustler Hugo (Keean Johnson) and becomes interested in the violent game of Motorball. Alita also finds she is no normal machine and there are sinister forces who want her technology for their own nefarious purposes…and they will hurt anyone to get it. A girl becomes a warrior, as Alita must now protect those she loves from harm.

The plot synopsis above is a simplification as Alita has a bit of a complex story, as many Manga do. It’s adapted to script by James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis and exceptionally well directed by Rodriguez, in what may be his best film so far. Despite being plot heavy, Rodriguez takes his time with the story, first introducing us to Alita and letting us learn about who she is as she does. It allows us to become endeared to her, so when treachery sets in and the action really gets going, we are emotionally invested in the characters. And that’s one of the pleasant surprises about Alita: Battle Angel, it has a strong emotional center thanks especially to a very strong performance by lead Rosa Salazar as Alita. The actress really gets the emotions of the character through in the motion capture and vocal performance, so we really see the CGI character as a three dimensional one. We feel for her all the way and the film has a “human” center despite being filled with CGI characters and epic battles. On the popcorn level the film also delivers. The SPFX are spectacular, as is the design of the world of the 26th century, Alita herself and her cyborg costars. The action is fast and furious and while having a lot of elements, the plot is far from hard to follow. The flick is surprisingly violent for a movie that could be marketed strictly to teens, but it makes it adult enough for the older crowd to enjoy and adds intensity to the proceedings. Sure there is some corny dialogue and some cliché moments, but Rodriguez uses those elements to the film’s advantage, as it is an old-fashioned superhero story at heart…and heart is something this flick has a lot of.

The cast really play the material well. As said, Rosa Salazar is very good at embodying Alita with a strong character through body language and voice performance. She gives the cyborg teen a lot of charm, intensity, as well as, a sense of wonder and a touch of naivety. Salazar is a star in the making. Waltz is very endearing as the kindly Dr. Ido, who has some secrets of his own. He plays the father figure well, but with a quiet strength. Keean Johnson is also endearing as the rogue-ish Hugo, the boy Alita falls for. He also has some secrets, too, but he remains likable despite Hugo’s sometimes shady activities. The film also features Jennifer Connelly as Ido’s ex-wife, who works for the film’s primary villain, Motorball tycoon Vector (Mahershala Ali) and there is a surprise cameo, that won’t be spoiled here, as the man pulling Vector’s strings, Nova. There are also appearances by Ed Skrein, Jeff Fahey, Michelle Rodriguez and Jackie Earl Haley as various CGI cyborg characters. A very effective cast.

Overall, this flick was a blast and a really good time that gives a very early start to the summer movie season. It’s a fun popcorn flick, yet one with a more layered story to get us involved in and adds some dramatic weight and intensity to the FX and action. It has a star making performance from it’s leading lady, Rosa Salazar and has more heart than you’d expect from a cyborg. Highly recommended.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) Battle Angels.

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U (2019)

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HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U (2019)

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

Sequel pics up right after the first flick with Tree (Jessica Rothe) cozying up with Carter (Israel Broussard) and all being well until roommate Ryan (Phi Vu) starts to relive his own murder over and over. Tree finds out her previous predicament and Ryan’s current one are as a result of Ryan and friends science experiment that effects time…just not in the way they planned. An effort to kill the loop sends Tree back to Monday the 18th again, only this time in an alternate universe.  She’s reliving her death all over again, only in this dimension Lori (Ruby Modine) is no longer the killer, Carter is dating Danielle (Rachel Matthews) and her mother is still alive. Can Tree get back to her normal dimension…and does she want to?

As you can guess by the plot description, Happy Death Day 2U sends the slasher elements to the background and focuses more on a Star Trek-ian/Back to the Future-esque tale of alternate timelines and other dimensions. It’s still fun, though shifting the focus also mutes some of the chills and thrills that made the first film such a treat. There is a lot of entertainment to be had and they have fun with the expanded concept, but this seems more like a cinematic episode of The Big Bang Theory with a slasher sub-plot. Christopher Landon again directs well, though this time from his own script and seems to want to play more with the whole alternate timeline thing and guide the story away from the slasher elements. A mid-credits scene hints that a part 3 will veer away even further. There was also a brief flirting with dopplegangers, but that disappears quickly, which is a shame as Tree being stalked by other alternate reality selves sounds like it would have been a hoot. If the film is missing anything, it’s the intensity the slasher elements brought to the table in the first film. The mix was more even in Happy Death Day and this sequel could have used a bit more.

Jessica Rothe is again a blast to watch though she shares the film’s focus with other characters and isn’t always the center of attention. The actress also proves again she is a leading lady with talent and can do drama, comedy and kick some ass, too. Israel Broussard is still charming and likable as Carter. The alternate reality version is pretty much the same guy, except for dating Rachel Matthews’ Danielle, who is a lot nicer in this other dimension. Matthews gets more screen time and gets to perform some slapstick comedy in one of the sillier sequences. Phi Vu gets a far more expanded role and is fun as Ryan and Suraj Sharma and Sara Yarkin play two of his nerdy lab partners/friends.

In conclusion, the sequel is not an equal, but not a disappointment either, unless you were expecting more of a horror film. There are some amusing sequences, some fun character interaction and even a little heart-tugging drama to go with the occasional dips back into slasher territory. On the downside it is slower paced, the killer was easy to guess and horror fans might not be happy with all the science geek quantum this and quantum that mumbo jumbo. Leading lady Jessica Rothe is still at least every bit the firecracker and if there is a three-quel, hopefully she is not pushed to the sidelines or lost in an ensemble piece. A fun movie thought maybe not what you might go in expecting. Stay through the credits for that mid-credits scene.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 baby-faced killers.

 

 

 

 

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 HORROR FLICKS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 HORROR FLICKS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH!

February is the month where we mark the achievements of the black community and there have been some wonderful contributions to the world of horror films by some amazing talents. Whether it be black filmmakers like William Crain and Jordan Peele, or actors such as William Marshall, Pam Grier and Duane Jones, there is much to celebrate! Here are ten films that illustrate the sometimes groundbreaking and always entertaining achievements in the horror genre that this month so proudly commemorates!

REVIEW LINKS: click to read the corresponding review!

  1. Blacula
  2. Scream Blacula Scream
  3. Abby
  4. Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde
  5. Sugar Hill
  6. The House On Skull Mountain
  7. Candyman
  8. Tales from the Hood
  9. Night of the Living Dead
  10. Get Out

 

To all these talented men and women in front of and behind the camera…CHEERS!

-MonsterZero NJ

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES FEB 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. “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” $34.4 Million

2. “What Men Want” $19 Million

3. “Cold Pursuit” $10.8 Million

4. “The Upside” $7.2 Million

5. “Glass” $6.4 Million

6. “The Prodigy” $6 Million

7. “Green Book” $3.5 Million

8. “Aquaman” $3.3 Million

9. “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” $3 Million

10. “Miss Bala” $2.7 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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BARE BONES: THE GOLEM (2019)

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THE GOLEM (2019)

Period horror takes place in Lithuania in 1673 and is steeped in Jewish mythology. A woman named Hanna (Hani Furstenberg) is still in mourning seven years after the death of her little boy. She is terrified at the idea of having another child with her husband Benjamin (Ishai Golan) and is scorned by his father, the village rabbi (Lenny Ravitz). A nearby community is ravaged by plague and the leader Vladimir (Alexey Tritenko) blames the Jewish settlement who are unaffected. When he and his thugs take her village hostage, Hanna uses forbidden knowledge in the Kabbalah to raise a Golem, an elemental creature, to defend them. Unforeseen complications arise, however, when The Golem proves not only uncontrollable, but takes the form of a little boy the same age as her dead son.

Film is directed by the Paz Brothers (Doron and Yoav who directed Jeruzalem) from a script by Ariel Cohen. The setting and the fact that the story is filled with Jewish mythology makes it intriguing and gives it a lot of atmosphere. The Paz Brothers also achieve some effectively spooky scenes and there is some disturbing violence, too. They get good work out of their cast and make excellent use of the Ukrainian locations. The film does evoke the classic story of Frankenstein as Hanna’s creation harms villagers and invaders alike protecting his “mother”, but also reminds one of the 80s cult classic Pumpkinhead as Hanna feels any pain that is inflicted on her elemental offspring. An intriguing and effective film from two filmmakers to keep an eye on.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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REVIEW: SEARCHING (2018)

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SEARCHING (2018)

Mystery thriller finds widower David Kim (John Cho) frantically searching for his teenage daughter Margot (Michelle La) who has gone missing. The entire story takes place on his laptop and phone, as he desperately searches all her social media sites for clues to where she went or who might know where she is. More frightening to David, aside from her disappearance, is that he may not have known his daughter at all.

Flick is not the first movie to take place entirely on a computer, but is one of the better ones thanks to skillful direction from Aneesh Chaganty from his clever script co-written with Sev Ohanian. The film starts out introducing us to the Kims, quickly etching out a portrait of a loving family, that is devastated by the loss of wife and mother Pam (Sara Sohn). We then get a single father trying to do what’s best for his daughter when, out of nowhere, she vanishes. It now evolves into a tense and suspenseful mystery as David tries to track down his daughter through social media, as a police detective (Debra Messing) investigates. For a movie that takes place entirely digital, Chaganty finds some clever ways to let us find out information, while still keeping us as in the dark as David as to where Margot went. Did she run away?…or worse? There are a few red herrings and if the film has an Achilles Heel, it’s that after putting us…and David…through a lot to get to it’s conclusion, it gets a bit convoluted in order to give it a crowd pleasing ending. It gets a bit dark and then has to juggle a somewhat far-fetched late story development in order to end things with a less grim and more safe Hollywood finale. Otherwise, this is a very entertaining and involving thriller with strong work from it’s leading man.

The cast is very small with many characters only appearing in quick video clips or photos such as Margot herself and her mother. John Cho gives a very strong and heartfelt performance as a slightly overprotective dad frantically searching for his daughter. Cho is both sympathetic and tenacious as he tries to track down Margot, refusing to believe the police and public…once the case goes viral…that Margot is dead or run away. A strong performance by Cho. Debra Messing is also good as a women who is both detective and a mother herself and the character fits well into the framework of the story. The only other character that has a steady amount of screen time is Joseph Lee as David’s stoner brother Peter, with whom David frequently confides in.

Overall, this was a very entertaining thriller. It’s social media setting is no longer new, but Aneesh Chaganty uses it cleverly and directs his cast and story very well. It’s suspenseful and intense and if it lets it’s build-up down a bit, it’s in a last act turn away from the dark path it was headed, taking the film away from a more realistic and grim ending in order to play it safe. Otherwise this was a solid mystery thriller with strong work from John Cho.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) laptops.

 

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REVIEW: BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF (2001)

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BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF (2001)

The story takes place in 18th century France in the rural provence of Gévaudan. There seems to be some sort of creature on the loose that is killing the locals and spreading fear across the land. Royal naturalist and soldier Grégoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) has been sent along with his Native American companion Mani (Mark Dacascos) to investigate. Soon Fronsac finds himself surrounded by intrigue, conspiracy, murder, betrayal and a pair of beautiful women (Émilie Dequenne and Monica Bellucci) who could be the death of him. All this leading up to the inevitable confrontation with the “Beast of Gévaudan”.

Wildly entertaining French film is directed by Christophe Gans from an imaginative script by he and Stéphane Cabel, that is inspired by real events. It’s an enchanting dark fairy tale that blends almost every type of genre from horror to drama to fantasy to mystery to action. There are stunning visuals, sumptuous costumes and amazing scenery and sets, as Gans weaves a tale of monsters both human and otherwise. There is blood, gore, sex, breathtaking martial arts and intense intrigue, not to mention some old fashioned romance as Fronsac falls for both the feisty nobleman’s daughter Marianne de Morangias (Dequenne) and the mysterious and possibly deadly Sylvia (Bellucci). Gans presents a noble hero to root for in Fronsac, some dastardly villains, such as Marianne’s brother Jean-François (Vincent Cassel) and possibly a monster, too. The action is incredibly fast and furious, the creature sequences as intense as any horror and the romance can be both charming and sizzling depending on the content of the scene. It’s the type of entertainment they don’t make any more, a film with both an involving story and something for everyone…the only thing missing is a musical number. The cinematography, by frequent Guillermo Del Toro cinematographer, Dan Laustsen is absolutely stunning and there is a wonderfully atmospheric score by Joseph LoDuca (the original Evil Dead).

The cast is large yet all bring something to their roles from nobles to clergy to savage gypsies and brothel beauties. Le Bihan is close to perfect as the noble and heroic Fronsac. He’s a handsome and charming rogue who is also very intelligent and when needs must, a complete badass. Would love to have seen him return in another tale. Émilie Dequenne is beautiful and enchanting as the spirited Marianne. Not hard to see why Fronsac falls easily for her. Mark Dacascos creates a strong character an the Iroquois warrior/mystic Mani. He’s a bit of a mystery, soft spoken, but highly skilled in martial arts and has some great fight scenes, as well as, stealing a few scenes. The great Vincent Cassel is a very strong villain as the deranged and dangerous Jean-François. He’s a man who’s allowed inner turmoil to make him twisted and cruel. Monica Bellucci oozes sex appeal and danger as the mysterious and sexy Sylvia. Who is she really? You’ll have to watch the film to find out! There are many supporting players and characters and they all perform well.

This flick is a personal favorite and almost twenty years after first seeing it, it still entertains. The blend of action, mystery, horror and romance is spectacular, as is the sumptuous design of the sets and costumes. The cast are all close to perfect and the characters they play are endearing, charming and detestable depending on whether they be villain or hero. It’s a dazzling popcorn movie directed with loads of heart and given enough depth and intrigue in the screenplay to give it some nice substance as well. An enchanting and dark fairy tale for adults.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 (out of 4) Muskets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES FEB 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. “Glass” $9.5 Million

2. “The Upside” $8.85 Million

3. “Miss Bala” $6.7 Million

4. “Aquaman” $4.8 Million

5. “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” $4.4 Million

6. “Green Book” $4.3 Million

7. “The Kid Who Would Be King” $4.2 Million

8. “A Dog’s Way Home” $3.5 Million

9. “Escape Room” $2.9 Million

10. “They Shall Not Grow Old” $2.4 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959)

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BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959)

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

Walter Paisley (Dick Miller) is a busboy at The Yellow Door, a coffee shop for beatniks and bohemian artists…what we would call a Starbucks today…and wants to be revered like many of the artistic types that frequent there, especially in the eyes of pretty co-worker Carla (Barboura Morris). In a series of unfortunate events, Walter kills his landlady’s cat Frankie and hides the body in some clay that he intended to use in a sculpture. He brings the cat to the shop and everyone becomes infatuated with it, especially Carla. Now Walter has discovered a way into Carla’s heart and it will only take some clay and a few corpses to do it.

Horror/comedy is directed and produced by Roger Corman from a script by Charles B. Griffith, who also wrote the original Little Shop of Horrors. It’s not the first collaboration between Corman and leading man Miller, but it is one of their most famous and one of Miller’s few leading roles. It also unleashed a slew of cameos by Miller playing characters named Walter Paisley in the films of up and coming Corman alumni years later. The flick is a comedy of errors with Walter making his first kills by accident, but as his “sculptures”, are getting him the attention he wants, he soon starts killing his subjects to be immortalized in clay. Obviously, things will get out of hand for the bumbling Walter.The satire may not click today as it specifically targets the beatnik culture of the 50s, but one may still appreciate the dark humor of Walter’s newfound art and the art crowd’s overwhelming reaction to it. It’s not a long movie at only 66 minutes and the jazz infused score by Fred Katz is quite nostalgic. On a production level, the film was shot in true Corman style for AIP on a budget of only $50,000 and in 5 days on the sets from another movie.

There is a small cast. Miller is likable and sympathetic as Walter. He’s abused by his boss Leonard (Antony Carbone) and ignored by those he wants attention from. Even when he starts to kill for his newfound hobby, he remains more tragic than unlikable, only becoming downright creepy in the last act. Barboura Morris is pretty and charming as Carla. She’s sweet and seems to always like Walter, though he doesn’t see it. Carbone is slimy as Leonard, who is benefiting financially from the art community’s new prodigy. Even when he discovers Walter’s gruesome secret, he chooses to profit until guilt finally overcomes him. The film also has a small role from 70s game show host and TV icon Bert Convy as an ill-fated undercover cop.

This early Corman production may be dated at this point, but it is still fun and it made Dick Miller a movie fan household name. Miller rarely had lead roles and this one would earn him a long career of character parts and cameos that lasted for sixty years. A perfect example of early Corman thriftiness and one of Dick Miller’s most famous roles.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) sculptures surprisingly titled “dead cat”.

 

Farewell and RIP Dick Miller (1928-2019)

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