BARE BONES: THE FAREWELL (2019)

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THE FAREWELL (2019)

Heartwarming and poignant movie finds family matriarch Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen) being diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only months to live. Her family decides to keep the news from her, but then stages a wedding between her grandson (Chen Han) and his girlfriend (Aoi Mizuhara), so that the family can come together to see her one last time. This brings her granddaughter Billi (Awkwafina) to China from NYC and thus begins a bittersweet reunion that creates mixed emotions for Billi, as to whether the family is doing the right thing for Nai Nai.

The Farewell is exceptionally well directed by Lulu Wang from her own script, based on her own true-life experiences. It is a very well balanced film in terms of emotional tone, as we get a perfect mix of lighthearted and heartfelt moments, one never overwhelming the other. The film presents a look into Chinese culture and family life, and there is some subtle commentary on keeping one’s heritage while pursuing one’s dreams abroad. It is a film about family and tradition and is acted by a splendid cast, including an impressive performance by Awkwafina, who recently won a well deserved Golden Globe for the role, and a wonderful Zhao Shuzhen as Nai Nai. This is a very entertaining movie that will resonate with anyone with a family and knows exactly when to be serious and when to make you smile. Highly recommended. Stay through the credits for one more moment that will definitely put a smile on your face. Also stars Tzi Ma and Diana Lin as Billi’s parents.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES: ZOMBIELAND-DOUBLE TAP (2019)

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ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP (2019)

Sequel opens with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) now living in the White House. Columbus asks Wichita to marry him and unfortunately it causes she and Little Rock to leave. Little Rock then strikes out on her own with stoner musician Berkeley (Avan Jogia) and when Wichita returns to ask for help in getting her back, she finds Columbus is now with ditzy blonde, Madison (Zoey Deutch), whom he found hiding in a mall. If that doesn’t add tension enough, there is apparently a new faster and deadlier type of zombie on the prowl.

Ruben Fleischer returns to direct from a script by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham. As such it’s a fun sequel, though completely unnecessary as it’s basically just more of the same. There is a fun bit with Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch as Albuquerque and Flagstaff, two travelers who are amusingly like Tallahassee and Columbus, but nothing much is done with it and it is over too quickly. Rosario Dawson is a welcome addition as Nevada, an Elvis loving love interest for Tallahassee, but even her character disappears for a while till joining the last act action. The climactic battle in a pacifist commune with the evolved zombie horde is entertaining and the four leads interact together very well, as they did last time. Aside from the fun of seeing the characters together again, there isn’t much to this sequel, which follows the template of the first film a little too closely to feel like anything more than a redo. Still, it’s an entertaining movie while it lasts, mostly because of the cast, but nothing that lingers after the credits have rolled. If you are a fan of the first film, you’ll probably have a good time with this one, even if it never accomplishes more than being an amusing, nostalgic reunion.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JAN 17-19

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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. “Bad Boys For Life” $59.2 Million

2. “Doolittle” $22.5 Million

3. “1917” $22.1 Million

4. “Jumanji: The Next Level” $9.5 Million

5. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” $8.3 Million

6. “Just Mercy” $6 Million

7. “Little Women” $5.9 Million

8. “Knives Out” $4.3 Million

9. “Like A Boss” $3.8 Million

10. “Frozen II” $3.7 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: GHOSTS OF MARS (2001)

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GHOSTS OF MARS (2001)

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

Ghosts of Mars was John Carpenter’s last film before he took an almost decade long break from filmmaking. The movie takes place in the future where Earth is terraforming and colonizing Mars. A squad of police officers, including Lt. Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge), Sgt. Jericho Butler (Jason Statham) and Cmd. Helena Braddock (Pam Grier), are sent to a small mining outpost to collect career criminal James “Desolation” Williams (Ice Cube), who is suspected of robbing a payroll delivery and brutally murdering six people. What they find, aside from a jailed Williams, is that an ancient evil has been released by the miners and has taken over the colonists and turned them into savage killers. Now trapped and outnumbered, they have to join forces with Williams, his criminal posse, and the other inmates, to survive.

Film is directed by Carpenter from a script by he and Larry Sulkis. Carpenter’s appreciation for British writer Nigel Kneale is evident here as Ghosts has elements of Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit (also known as Five Million Years to Earth) and Carpenter’s own Assault on Precinct 13. We have the spirit forms of an ancient Martian race of savage warriors released from their tomb and possessing individuals, turning them into savage blood-thirsty killers, who are determined to oust the human invaders. This forces cop and criminal alike to team up to survive, as the Martians lay siege to the outpost prison. The film was not a success back in the day, but looking back it’s not as bad as it’s reputation suggests, though still one of Carpenter’s lesser efforts. There is plenty of action, abundant bloodletting and gore and the SPFX are charmingly old school on GOM’s modest budget. Carpenter had a little fun with telling certain scenes from different POVs and it has some spooky moments when dealing with it’s Martian specters, who can move from one host to another when a previous host is felled. The Martians themselves are creepy with bizarre face paint and gory body piercings. It’s only when their leader (Richard Cetrone) speaks that the scenes loose their potency as he seems to be uttering gibberish and not an actual structured language, like say, Klingon or any of the Star Wars aliens. It’s a bit distracting, but thankfully those scenes are brief and few. Overall, the film is derivative, but Carpenter still crafts a fun, action/horror with a good cast and some entertaining character interaction. One of Carpenter’s strong points has always been memorable characters and it’s no different here.

As for the cast playing those characters, Natasha Henstridge makes a strong lead in what Carpenter’s intro describes as a matriarchal society. Ballard is a fighter with her own issues and she and Ice Cube work well together. As Williams, Ice Cube is solid as the criminal with a bit of a code of honor. Sure, someone with a bit stronger screen presence, like Wesley Snipes, could have taken Williams into Snake Plissken territory, but Cube is more than efficient. Statham is good as the cocky and horny Jericho Butler and it’s interesting seeing him in a supporting role, before he became a top action star. Pam Grier is every bit the legend she is as the tough Cmd. Braddock and Joanna Cassidy is good as a scientist responsible for the Martians’ release. She supplies a lot of the exposition we need, as does a clever sequence of a stoned and possessed Ballard that fills in the backstory. Supporting cast include Clea DuVall (The Faculty), an imposing Richard Cetrone as the Martian war chief and small roles from Carpenter regular Peter Jason and Robert Carradine as train operators.

Maybe it’s the nostalgia, but all these years later this flick doesn’t seem quite as disappointing as it first did on opening day in 2001. GOM is still not Carpenter’s strongest work, or most original flick, but it’s also not his worst flick either. Carpenter crafts an entertaining action flick, with some spooky sci-fi/horror elements and has a good cast. It’s not perfect, but he does add some inventive touches and moments to a derivative story and it moves quickly at just under an hour and 40 minutes. Gary B. Kibbe provides some nice cinematography for Carpenter’s shots and Carpenter himself provides a rock heavy score with some famous names guesting on it, like Steve Vai, Anthrax and Buckethead*. GOM does show signs of a filmmaker getting tired of the whole process, but also one who can still make good use out of a familiar story and on a modest budget.

*Complete track listing with guest artists listed below trailer!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) angry red planets.

 

 

 

 

 

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GHOSTS OF MARS TRACK LISTING w/guest artists (list originally posted on Wikipedia)

  1. “Ghosts of Mars” (3:42) – Steve Vai, Bucket Baker & John Carpenter
  2. “Love Siege” (4:37) – Buckethead, Robin Finck, John Carpenter & Anthrax (Scott Ian, Paul Crook, Frank Bello & Charlie Benante)
  3. “Fighty Train” (3:16) – Robin Finck, John Carpenter & Anthrax
  4. “Visions of Earth” (4:08) – Elliot Easton & John Carpenter
  5. “Slashing Gash” (2:46) – Elliot Easton & John Carpenter
  6. “Kick Ass” (6:06) – Buckethead, John Carpenter & Anthrax
  7. “Power Station” (4:37) – Robin Finck, John Carpenter & Anthrax
  8. “Can’t Let You Go” (2:18) – Stone (J.J. Garcia, Brian James & Brad Wilson), John Carpenter, Bruce Robb & Joe Robb
  9. “Dismemberment Blues” (2:53) – Elliot Easton, John Carpenter & Stone
  10. “Fighting Mad” (2:41) – Buckethead & John Carpenter
  11. “Pam Grier’s Head” (2:35) – Elliot Easton, John Carpenter & Anthrax
  12. “Ghost Popping” (3:20) – Steve Vai, Robin Finck, John Carpenter & Anthrax

 

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HAPPY 72nd BIRTHDAY TO THE LEGENDARY JOHN CARPENTER!

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The_10_best_movie_soundtracks_according_John_Carpenter_photo_by_Kyle_Cassidy_750_501_75_sThe man, the myth, the legend!

Today legendary genre director John Carpenter turns 72! As he has directed so many classics and is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers, who’s created some of my all-time favorite films, MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse wishes him a very happy, healthy birthday!

-MonsterZero NJ

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IT CAME FROM ASIAN CINEMA: LEGEND OF THE FIST-THE RETURN OF CHEN ZHEN (2010)

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LEGEND OF THE FIST: THE RETURN OF CHEN ZHEN (2010)

Over the last decade, legendary martial arts star Donnie Yen took over the Hong Kong action cinema, with Jackie Chan and Jet Li slowing down their film appearances, and he has certainly become one of their hardest working stars. Yen followed the acclaimed Ip Man series with this 2010 story featuring Chinese martial arts movie hero Chen Zhen, previously embodied by Li in Fist of Legend and before him, by the legendary Bruce Lee in Fists of Fury.

This film adventure of the classic character is directed by Andrew Lau (Infernal Affairs) from a script by Cheung Chi-shing and Gordon Chan. Chen Zhen is portrayed here as a World War I hero who returns home to find Japan planning to invade mainland China. Zhen becomes a masked freedom fighter, during Japan’s occupation of Shanghai, to thwart their efforts. Of course, there is treachery, femme fatales and legions of enemies in his way. As usual with these films, there is plenty of action, heart stopping stunts and beautiful women, all highlighted by some sumptuous cinematography from director Andrew Lau and Ng Man-ching.

While Legend of the Fist does indeed resemble a mix of Li’s Fist of Legend and his superhero action epic Black Mask, it is also colorful and entertaining enough to let it slide, as we are treated to a martial arts period flick filled with intrigue, action, betrayal and heroism. It’s a film that evokes the Hong Kong glory days of the 90s, one that is hard not to like, despite it’s derivative storyline. Flick also stars Hong Kong cinema beauty Shu Qi as a Japanese spy and legendary Hong Kong actor Anthony Wong as a club owner. A top notch cast. Yen himself choreographed the fight scenes. Familiar but fun.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 (out of 4) swords
white-witch-rating

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: JAY AND SILENT BOB REBOOT (2019)

 

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JAY AND SILENT BOB REBOOT (2019)

Flick finds nothing much has changed since we last saw Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) in Kevin Smith’s 2006 Clerks II. They are still hanging out by the Quick Stop and smoking weed, though they are now growing and selling it, too. The dense duo are caught and an unscrupulous lawyer (Justin Long) gets them to sign away their names, so, a reboot of the Bluntman and Chronic movie, entitled Bluntman V Chronic, can commence. They hear a major sequence will be filmed at L.A.’s Chronic-Con and so, in true reboot fashion, the two hit the road again to stop production. Along the way Jay finds out that former love Justice (Shannon Elizabeth) bore him a child, who is now a rebellious teenager (Harley Quinn Smith) who comes along for the trip.

Kevin Smith writes and directs this latest adventure of his two slacker, stoner characters and for the first third, at least, it’s kinda nostalgic fun. Sadly the second third gets bogged down in the whole Jay finds out he’s a dad storyline and then when his daughter Millennium Faulken joins him on the quest for Chronic-Con, he tries to bond with the angry teen, without telling her who he really is. The melodrama drags the fun down a bit and the attempts at bonding aren’t nearly as funny as they should be. No better example than when he and Silent Bob have to rescue her and her racially diverse friends from a Ku Klux Klan chapter, whose Grand Wizard is played by professional wrestler/singer Chris Jericho, no less. It’s unnecessary and unfunny and only slows things down further. The third act really stalls as Jay, Silent Bob and the girls hit the convention to stop the film’s director…big surprise…Kevin Smith and it becomes a Kevin Smith ego-stroking, love letter to himself with cameos from former Smith film cast members that sadly only goes to show how old everyone has gotten since the 90s, when Smith and their characters was relevant. The stale dialog bits between these characters also prove that everyone involved is getting a bit too old for this schtick and maybe it’s time to move on from this whole, painfully dated Clerks based universe*. Smith and his returning to these characters, is like an over-the-hill singer from an 80s hair band that still sings about teenage girls. It’s sad and a bit creepy at this point.

*With a rumored Mallrats sequel and Clerks III on the way, this is, however, highly unlikely.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JAN 10-12

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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. “1917” $36.5 Million

2. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” $15 Million

3. “Jumanji: The Next Level” $14 Million

4. “Like A Boss” $10 Million

5. “Just Mercy” $10 Million

6. “Little Women” $7.65 Million

7. “Underwater” $7 Million

8. “Frozen II” $5.76 Million

9. “Knives Out” $5.72 Million

10. “Spies In Disguise” $5.1 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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BARE BONES: LAST CHRISTMAS (2019)

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LAST CHRISTMAS (2019)

Christmas season set romantic comedy finds pretty Kate (Emilia Clarke) down on her luck and unable to keep a roof over her head, because of constantly pissing-off those she roommates with. She’s had a traumatic life threatening illness, has not been herself since and is alienating her family and friends. Even her stern, Christmas loving boss (Michelle Yeoh) is loosing patience with the wannabe singer turned Christmas store elf. One night things start to change, however, as Kate meets the mysterious and charismatic Tom (Henry Golding), who inspires Kate to overcome her emotional troubles and be herself again.

Holiday flick is directed by Paul Feig (Ghostbusters 2016) from a script and story by co-star Emma Thompson, Greg Wise and Bryony Kimmings. As such it is a mixed bag. Even though we are supposed to be on Kate’s side, she is somewhat annoying at first and it’s hard to sympathize with her when she is being a bit of a selfish a-hole. The romantic aspects are very cliché, though thanks to a charming cast they still work very well. That cast elevates this above the mediocre holiday rom-com it is, with Clarke and Golding having really nice chemistry together. Clarke especially wins us over once Kate starts to change her ways and goes from annoying to adorable in the last act and Golding proves to be a charismatic leading man. A fantastic Michelle Yeoh steals every scene she is in and Dame Emma Thompson is amusing as Kate’s Yugoslavian mother. The London setting is equally charming and the film does have a surprising reveal, about two third through, that you may not see coming. Overall, it’s entertaining enough, wins you over by it’s last act and made far better than it’s routine script by a solid cast and some good old fashioned charm…though, you might be a little tired of that Wham! song by it’s end.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: TAMMY AND THE T-REX (1994)

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TAMMY AND THE T-REX (1994): THE UNCUT VERSION

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

Tammy and the T-Rex is a ludicrous 1994 comedy that had some very explicit gore cut from it to earn a PG-13 rating for it’s initial release. Now 25 years later, those gore scenes have been restored and it’s up to the viewer as to whether that was a good idea or not.

Ridiculous story finds high school cheerleader Tammy (Denise Richards) falling for a new boyfriend, football player Michael (Paul Walker). Tammy’s delinquent ex, Billy (George Pilgrim) doesn’t take too kindly to her new beau and, in a plot worthy of Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil, kidnaps him and drops him off at a wild animal preserve. Savaged by a lion, Michael finds himself in the hospital and in critical condition. Opportunistic mad scientist Dr. Wachenstein (Terry Kizer) has the youth declared dead and puts Michael’s brian in an animatronic T-Rex as part of his experiments to create the perfect robot. The T-Rex/Michael escapes captivity and takes bloody revenge on Billy and his gang before trying to resume his relationship with Tammy. Obviously, thinking there is a monster on the loose, the inept town law enforcement closes in forcing Tammy and the T-Rex to go on the lam. Yes, this is an actual movie!

This cheesy, goofy and gory flick is directed by Stewart Raffill from a nonsensical script by he and Gary Brockette. The tone of the film, especially with the gore restored, is wildly uneven with slapstick comedy one minute and slasher style violence the next. The love story angle of it is even more absurd, with scenes of Tammy gleefully riding her boyfriend/T-Rex with the cops in hot pursuit. One wonders if the removal of the gore wasn’t actually a good idea, as in this case, at least the film would have been more consistent as a straight-up comedy. The cast are all over-acting and the over-the-top performances fit in with the premise far more than the viscera and limbs. The animatronic T-Rex is impressive, though the FX in some long shots of it walking are pathetically poor. Thankfully those shots are few and far between. Still, there is something very entertaining about it, though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what. Maybe it’s the filmmakers just taking the ball and running with it that makes it appealing, or, perhaps, it’s presenting this tale of love and robot dinosaurs proudly without restraint that makes it amusing. More than likely it’s simply because it hits the right notes at being an enjoyable ‘so bad it’s good’ oddity and that’s what gives us the giggles.

Whatever the reasons one can sit through this with a smile of disbelieve and amusement on their face, this is a ridiculous movie that has the audacity to parade it’s nonsensical story out there proudly. There is goofball comedy one minute and hardcore gore the next, as a mechanical T-rex with a human brian tries to find love and revenge in a small suburban California town. It’s an original premise, you have to give it that! Tammy and the T-Rex is current available uncut on blu-ray from the great folks at Vinegar Syndrome… https://vinegarsyndrome.com/collections/vinegar-syndrome/products/tammy-and-the-t-rex

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) T-Rexs for it’s sheer audacity and unrestrained goofiness.

 

 

 

 

 

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