MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MAY 24-27

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UPDATED!: Complete estimates for this holiday weekend’s box office are in with Fast And Furious 6 predicted to cross the finish line into the top spot for the 4 days including Memorial day!

1. “Fast and Furious 6” $120 Million

2. “Hangover III” $51.2 million.

3. “Star Trek Into Darkness” $47 million.

4. “Epic” $42.6 million.

5. “Iron Man 3” $24.3 million.

6. “The Great Gatsby” $17 million.

7. “Mud” $2.4 million

8. “The Croods” $1.6 million

9. “42” $1.6 million

10 “Oblivion” $1 Million

source: box office mojo

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SPECIAL BIRTHDAY EDITION- NEIL MARSHALL’S THE DESCENT

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SPECIAL BIRTHDAY EDITION!

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY NEIL MARSHALL!

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And to celebrate the birthday of one of my favorite new generation filmmakers, I review my favorite of his films! (Though, I like them all!)

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THE DESCENT  (2005)

Our chilling story begins with the tragic death of the husband and daughter of Sarah, (Shauna Macdonald) one of six adventure seeking friends. A year later, group leader, Juno (Natalie Mendoza), decides to take Sarah and the rest on an underground cave exploring expedition. But the overzealous Juno has tricked them into exploring a supposedly undiscovered system and soon they become trapped inside with no one but the cave’s carnivorous inhabitants knowing where they are.

Writer/director Neil Marshall creates a truly scary and suspenseful roller coaster ride as these six women get lost in this undiscovered system and worse yet, find out they are not alone. The Descent is a claustrophobic and tense experience even before the creatures show up. With the tension between group members and of the cave-in that traps them inside, the film would have been entertaining and satisfying enough had that been the extent of it’s story. But it is a horror film and cave dwelling carnivores soon show up and when they do, the real nightmare begins for our spelunking sweeties. One of the reasons Descent is so successful is that the women are all likable three dimensional characters and there is some really nice and realistic interaction and banter between them. They are a diverse and likable group and even Juno has her positive qualities though, her actions do make her very morally questionable. Marshall gets really good performances out of his sextet of heroines and It has impact when they come to harm. And Marshall doesn’t spare them, or us, when they do, it’s brutal and bloody. But these ladies also give as good as they get when it comes to fighting back and the last third is quite a bloodbath. Marshall also ups the ante by adding a personal conflict that develops between the two leads Sarah and Juno, that adds an extra dynamic and gives an extra dramatic punch to an already pulse pounding finale.

The production looks good and Marshall makes maximum use of his setting. The cave itself becomes a character as Marshall filmed the movie using only the light the girls themselves are using, to light the scenes. It gives a better illusion that the viewer is there with our heroines as they move through the underground labyrinth and creates a really claustrophobic atmosphere that adds to the suspense and dread. As for the cave’s inhabitants, they are kept in shadows and seen briefly, which keeps them mysterious and scary and Marshall even imbues them with a bit of character so they become more real to his audience and more than just monsters. The make-up and gore effects bringing these creatures and their carnage to gruesome life are also top notch.

Very intense, very scary, very gory and one of the best horror flicks of the last decade. Watch it in the dark, but not alone! Also staring Alex Reid as Beth, MyAnna Buring as Sam, Saskia Mulder as Rebecca and Nora-Jane Noone as Holly. Buring and Noone were also featured in Marshall’s fun Escape From New York/Road Warrior mash-up Doomsday (2008).

Birthday boy Neil Marshall also directed Dog Soldiers, Doomsday, Centurion, episodes of Game Of Thrones and is slated to helm the upcoming Hellboy reboot.

An intense and gory 4 cave critters!

descent rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: A CHINESE GHOST STORY I & II

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A CHINESE GHOST STORY (1987)

One of my all time favorite films since first seeing it at The Film Forum in NYC at The Hong Kong Film Festival in September of 1991. This Hong Kong classic is an enchanting supernatural romance/action/ fantasy, a fairy tale-like story of a meek tax collector, Ning Tsei-Shen (the late Leslie Cheung) in ancient China, who encounters and falls in love with a beautiful ghost, Nieh Hsiao-Tsing (the gorgeous Joey Wang). But this enchanting specter who has stolen his heart is betrothed to the devil himself by her master, the soul sucking Tree Demon (Lau Siu-Ming). The mild mannered Ning Tsei-Shen teams up with a powerful Taoist monk (the scene stealing Wu Ma) and vows to save his supernatural love from her eternally damning fate.

A Chinese Ghost Story is simply a great movie directed by legendary Hong Kong director Ching Siu-Tung and produced by the equally legendary Tsui Hark, that delivers everything from sumptuous cinematography, charming romance, thrilling martial arts action, spooky scares and some very effective old-school SPFX. The film has the wonderful ability to charm us, entertain us, give us the chills and make us laugh out loud. The cast is perfect with leads Cheung and Wang making an enchanting couple, Wu Ma a cantankerous mix of Bruce Lee, Gandalf and Yoda and Lau Siu-Ming is creepy and formidable as the weirdly androgynous Tree Demon. A simply wonderful and wildly entertaining film!

4 supernatural sirens!

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A CHINESE GHOST STORY II (1990)

Chinese Ghost Story 2 is a cinematic rarity, a sequel that’s an equal. Tax collector Ning Tsei-Shen (Leslie Cheung) returns and is once again drawn into a battle with evil supernatural forces over a woman. This time, she’s a flesh and blood woman, Windy (Joey Wang) who is the spitting image of his ghostly love from the previous installment. As Ning is mistaken for a rebel leader, he is more then happy to perpetuate this error in order to get close to the beautiful rebel, Windy. But the rebels are up against a demon in disguise and once again Ling is forced to battle an assortment of supernatural foes.

Chinese Ghost Story 2 is a bit bigger with more action, but, the human element is not lost thanks to another fine performance by Leslie Cheung as he tax collector and Wang as his paramour, Windy. There are some delightful new characters such as cocky Taoist monk, Autumn (Jacky Cheung), Windy’s spunky sister, Moon (Michelle Reis) and heroic swordsman, Fu (Waise Lee). There is also a surprise cameo from a character from part 1 that I won’t spoil, but the audience at The Hong Kong Film Festival at the Film Forum in NYC erupted in thunderous cheers when they appear. While less of a romance and more of a supernatural adventure this time, CGS2 nonetheless has some great action, some nice chills, some hysterically funny scenes, (one involving two characters, a giant demon and a freezing spell might be among my favorite slapstick comedy scenes.) and some charming old fashion FX that might be cheesy elsewhere, but bring a smile to one’s face here. Again Ching Siu-tung skillfully directs and beautifully shoots this great follow-up and Tsui Hark again produces. Another Hong Kong classic.

4 supernatural sirens!

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There is a Chinese Ghost Story 3 (1991) also directed by Ching Siu-Tung and while it is entertaining, it takes place 100 years later and is almost a reboot, so it doesn’t quite fit in with the first film and it’s direct sequel…unless you want to include it for a complete trilogy viewing. Joey Wang stars again, this time as a Ghost named Lotus and Lau Siu-Ming returns as the tree demon.

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE (2006)

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ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE  (2006)

Interesting flick evokes both the horror films of the 70s and the slashers of the 80s as it tells the story of the beautiful and virginal, high school student Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) and what befalls her and her friends at a weekend getaway at a secluded ranch. Mandy is the beautiful object of every boys’ desire and as she and her group of friends party and all the boys plot to get into her pants, someone else stalks the group with far more homicidal desires.

Director Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies) gives Lane a visual style that evokes 70s flicks like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but his story is very 80s slasher complete with promiscuous teens meeting gruesome deaths. Despite the similarities with past horrors, Levine adds his own slant to the proceedings and Mandy Lane is not your typical slasher, as Jacob Forman’s script has it’s share of twists and surprises. There are some arty touches and a deliberately slow burning pace to go along with some vicious kills, and you never feel things are quite right, even when nothing wrong is going on. The cast are all fine with leading lady Heard fitting the bill as the beautiful nymph every boy wants and you can’t quite tell if she’s oblivious to her effect on the young men around her, or if she’s just playing them all like the love sick puppies they are. Once the bodies start to pile up, though, her Mandy shows she’s more than just a pretty face.

It’s an odd little horror that will probably evoke very mixed feelings from movie and horror fans alike. Not a great flick…It has it’s faults such as revealing the killer’s identity a bit too early…but one that has it’s own identity among-st the many other horrors of it’s kind. When all is said and done, it is an effective slasher.

Originally set to be released by Dimension Films, they sold it off to Senator Entertainment who then went out of business leaving Mandy Lane unreleased here in the US, adding to it’s reputation. After 7 years it finally saw a release October 11, 2013 on Blu-Ray, VOD and DVD by new distributor RADiUS-TWC, who are part of The Weinstein Company, which, ironically, also includes Dimension Films. Mandy Lane has finally come home. Also stars Hell On Wheels’ Anson Mount.

3 (out of 4) Mandy Lane’s

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BUG (1975)

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Bug (1975)

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BUG (1975)

This 70s creature feature from legendary producer and gimmick-meister William Castle is an important film to me as it was the first movie I ever saw at Hackensack’s Oritani Theater. It was on a double feature with At The Earth’s Core (the movie I really wanted to see) and it was the only time I was at the theatre before it became a triplex. Based on Thomas Page’s novel, The Hephaestus Plague, this story of an earthquake unleashing an army of prehistoric, fire-starting cockroaches on a rural desert town, really spooked the heck out of me when I saw it at ten years of age. A recent revisit has made me take a more objective look at this creepy chiller and it is, in ways, still very effective.

Bug has some great 70s nostalgic charm now as it takes it’s far fetched story quite seriously and director Jeannot Szwarc (Jaws 2) makes it work by doing exactly that. The cast also play it serious as these lethal, incendiary insects begin to set everything and everyone in town ablaze and science teacher, Prof. James Parmiter (Bradford Dillman) tries to study and stop them. That’s where Bug’s script by Page and William Castle deviates from the norm, as Dillman’s scientist becomes obsessed with these creatures. The film shifts gears in the final act to become more of a Frankenstein-like tale, as Parmiter’s studies lead to experiments, including cross breeding these creepy critters. Since we all know where Dr. Frankenstein’s experiments lead to, it’s no secret the good professor should have just let the fire starting bugs be. As his subjects start to show an uncanny intelligence, Parmiter may have turned a dangerous menace into a real monster, echoing Mary Shelley’s tale. This flick with it’s plot straight out of a 50s sci-fi movie, is creepy, fun, 70s stuff. Check out the trailer below, it’s a hoot!

 3 (out of 4) incendiary cockroaches!

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