REVIEW: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

I’d never even heard of Guardians Of The Galaxy till Marvel announced a film version of the comic. So, I went into this flick blind though, I am a big fan of director James Gunn’s Slither and was familiar with his devious and sarcastic sense of humor. And while I do feel some familiarity with the comic would help a little going in, I had a blast of a good time nonetheless.

The film opens with a young boy, Peter Quill being abducted from Earth by a space ship and then fast forwards 26 years later with Quill (Chris Pratt) now a renown thief who calls himself Star Lord and runs with a group of space pirates know as the Ravagers. He steals a mysterious orb which is also on the wanted list of a vicious Kree usurper called Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) and when he tries to sell it without involving the Ravager’s leader Yondru (Michael Rooker), he also earns a price on his head. And when he collides with Ronan’s assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and bounty hunters Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper) and the plant-like Groot (Vin Diesel) all four land in jail. It is there they bond over common issues and enemies and hook up with their eventual 5th member Drax (WWE Superstar Dave Bautista) and the Guardians Of The Galaxy are born! Now they must escape from prison and somehow keep the orb out of Ronan’s hands as he seeks to use it’s powerful contents to lay waste to anyone who stands in his way, including the Nova Corp home world of Xandar and even the powerful Thanos (Josh Brolin) himself.

Yea, Guardians is a little plot heavy but, makes it work in just over two hours. One of the few flaws I had with it was, that the plot is a little complex in terms of characters, which there are a lot of, and backstory, which is kinda rushed through in quick exposition sequences. The first half hour is a bit clunky as we have five main characters and two or three villains to introduce us to and the flick tries to get this origin stuff out of the way as quick as possible to get the story moving. And this first segment is a bit too fast paced for it’s own good. But, once the heroes bond inside the Nova Corp prison and form a misfit group with a mission, the flick accelerates into a incredibly fun, and hysterically funny at times, sci-fi adventure that is one of this Summer’s best movies and one of the most outright entertaining movies Marvel has put out since The Avengers. Director and co-writer, with Nicole Perlman, James Gunn has shown us his audacious, mischievous and deviously sarcastic sense of humor in his previous films and here he delivers some really funny lines and scenes that test the boundaries of Marvel’s PG-13 movie universe while not disrupting the dazzling and action packed space opera going on around it. He keeps the film moving like a rocket, though a little too fast at first as said, and there are some truly dazzling action and battle scenes throughout. And the best thing of all, is the film also has some nice emotional resonance to go along with the one-liners and space battles and the film has a huge heart to go along with all the CGI wizardry. The characters fast become very endearing and the villains are strong and help add weight to the story. There are dozens of bizarre and unique characters that populate Gunn’s vision of the Guardian universe and the production design reminded me of the classic Heavy Metal comics when it was in it’s glory with artists like Moebius. I really loved the look of the film and the FX were flawless and amazing. Top that off with another strong score by Tyler Bates supported with a great assortment of classic tunes and you have a real blast of a movie with a refreshingly mischievous and rebellious edge to add contrast to the other Marvel films in this ongoing series.

There is a large cast and all of them do good work at bringing their colorful and offbeat characters to life. Pratt makes a strong ‘bad boy’ hero and is a nice addition to Marvel’s canon and is nicely flawed reminding one of a less genius and far less polished Tony Stark. Saldana is a strong and passionate Gamora and has a nice chemistry with Pratt and the others. Bradley Cooper steals the show as the voice of Rocket Raccon and he has some of the film’s best lines and delivers them with some deft comic timing. Diesel’s Groot has only one line the tree creature can utter and gets the point across and adds a little different tone and inference to that line each time he says it. Rounding out our heroes is a surprisingly very funny Dave Bautista. The WWE Superstar gives some hilariously dry line readings as well as creates a very noble and imposing warrior in Drax. He shows much more range then some of his other roles. As for the rest, Pace makes a very threatening villain in Ronan, Karen Gillan made a strong villainess in his assassin assistant Nebula and Rooker is top notch, as always, as the out for himself Yondu. Add to that, eccentric character appearances by Benicio del Toro, John C. Reilly and Glen Close and you have a deep cast that really make the offbeat characters come vividly to life whether it is a large role or little more then a cameo… and let’s not forget Josh Brolin giving a lot of weight to Thanos, who is to play a far larger role in future Marvel films.

To finish up, I had a blast with one of the most audaciously fun and uniquely toned and designed space operas in some time. It’s a refreshingly different entry in the Marvel film series but, somehow fits right in. It starts off a little awkwardly with a lot of backstory and characters to establish but, ones it gets going it’s a roller coaster ride of sci-fi action and fun, that isn’t afraid to test the boundaries of Marvels family friendly movies. A real blast and probably the most fun I’ve had in a movie since The Avengersand not to mention a dynamite soundtrack of classic tunes that are perfectly used and placed throughout. Highly recommended!

… and, obviously stay through the credits!

3 and 1/2 Gamoras.

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ROB ZOMBIE REVEALS “31” DETAILS!

 

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Filmmaker/ Musican Rob Zombie has finally released some details about his, up till now, mysterious new film project ’31’. Not only does he give plot details but, has revealed it will be fan-funded! About the plot of this new horror he had this to say…

“Welcome to my next film. It is called ’31,’ ” …

“It is the story of five random people kidnapped on the five days leading up to Halloween and held hostage in a place called Murder World. While trapped inside this man-made Hell they must fight to survive playing the most violent game known to man… a game called 31.”

“What kind of film is this you ask? It is a fast paced, mean dirty film for those who like it rough. Get ready for a sick piece of celluloid! This is some hardcore business for the blood-thirsty gore hounds.”

The film’s official site, where you can contribute in exchange for some cool stuff, also had this to say about ’31’

“31 has no rules. 31 has no boundaries. It is ever so simple. Do whatever you can do to kill your opponent before they kill you. Keep this up for 12 hours and freedom is yours.”

and…

“Who are the opponents? Well… a group of vile, filthy, blood-thirsty clowns known as THE HEADS. They come in all shapes and sizes and each grows nastier than the last.”

Sounds cool to me!

(click image to enlarge)

Check out this video of Rob Zombie himself  explaining his reasoning to fund the project in this way…

source: Youtube/Bloody Disgusting.com/31-rob-zombie-film

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SHOCK WAVES (1977)

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SHOCK WAVES (1977)

Shock Waves is a very effective and spooky 70s horror flick that goes in slightly different direction with the traditional zombie formula and does a lot with a little.

The film opens with old WWII newsreel footage telling of rumored German experiments to create a super solider and of allied troops actually meeting squads of German commandos that were relentless, unstoppable and fought with only their bare hands. We then cut to the present with a young woman (Brooke Adams) in shock, being pulled from a boat and it is her narration that sets the tale in motion. The woman, named Rose, was aboard a tour boat near the Bahamas that had an engine malfunctioned and became lost. In the middle of the night, it strikes what appears to be an abandoned ship and is damaged, forcing guests and crew onto a small island where they find an old, apparently abandoned hotel. But the structure is not abandoned and is inhabited by an old German man (horror legend Peter Cushing) who warns that the appearance of the ghost ship that struck them, “The Pretorius” means they are all in mortal danger. He reveals that he was a soldier who commanded a platoon of scientifically altered troops who were vicious and unstoppable and designed to fight in the water. The soldiers were uncontrollable and were taken out to sea to be kept out of allied hands. When the war was lost, he sank his shipload of them and came to live on this island. But now that the ship and it’s living dead cargo has washed up on a reef, the ‘Death Corp.’ are now free to do what they were created to… kill!

Despite a PG rating and being very tame in terms of violence, Shock Waves is a very atmospheric and spooky flick thanks to director Ken Wiederhorn’s creating of a constant and heavy mood of dread and keeping his zombie-like soldiers shrouded in mystery even once they are revealed. He manages no small feat by creating such atmosphere on a sunlit tropical island, but his camera work and skilled scene set-ups overcome the idyllic setting to make a satisfyingly gothic horror. The scenes of his Death Corp. troops rising silently from the water with their scarred faces and dark goggles chills each time as does their silent and relentless pursuit of our ill-fated castaways. Despite a modest budget, Wiederhorn creates the illusion that they are everywhere and that no one is safe, no matter where they try to hide. The fact that they are renown for attacking their fellow soldiers and commanders makes even the former SS commander fearful of them and that he is also afraid, translates to the rest of the characters and to the audience. Add to this a really creepy electronic score by Richard Einhorn and you have a movie that, depute being relatively bloodless and very tame in it’s actual violence, is still quite unsettling from beginning to end. For those who whine about today’s trend of teen friendly PG-13 horror need only look to this PG rated fright flick to learn that it is the atmosphere and chills that make a horror work, not the gore and guts… though I do love a good gore fest, too!

The cast are all fine. Obviously Cushing is in top form, as always, as the SS commander and he is joined by the legendary John Carradine in a small role as the shipwrecked tour boat’s captain. A young Brooke Adams is a strong-willed heroine in her Rose and the fact that the film gets the shapely young actress in a bikini frequently, doesn’t hurt either. The rest of the small cast are relative unknowns, but do a decent job though, there won’t be any awards either. And the men who portray the stalking Death Corp. troops give their characters some lethal and deadly presence, which adds to the film’s effectiveness.

So, in effect, Ken Weiderhorn delivers a very atmospheric and chilling horror, that he co-wrote with John Kent Harrison, that is very successful in delivering the creepy goods, despite it’s low budget and minimalist approach. The film is practically bloodless and is very moderately paced, but it still gives goosebumps and makes very good use of the deserted motel location and even the jungle surrounding it. It’s not a great movie, but is still a very effective little horror that proves that you can chill without extravagant make-up FX or gore. Today’s impatient and visually overstimulated audiences might not be impressed, but for those who can appreciate it’s laid-back approach, it is a very spooky 90 minutes.

3 spooky submerged stormtroopers.

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BARE BONES: ‘SEE NO EVIL 2’ TRAILER and ROB ZOMBIE’S NEXT FLICK

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The Soska sisters, who brought us the disturbing and original American Mary with the lovely Katharine Isabelle, have followed that up with a sequel to the slasher See No Evil which featured WWE superstar Kane (Glenn Jacobs) as homicidal madman Jacob Goodnight. I was not a big fan of the original but, the Soska’s involvement and now this really cool looking trailer have my interest very peaked… not to mention it stars Isabelle and Danielle Harris, two of today’s most popular scream queens!

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Filmmaker/musician Rob Zombie is headed back to the director’s chair this fall with a new and original horror film simply titled “31” referring to Halloween night. The controversial writer/director has been rather tightlipped about the film’s plot and details, save to say it is an original idea not based on anything previously seen. While details are still slim… for now… we at least have these two production photos to wet our gruesome appetites…

31-sketch   31Zombie33

(click on pics to enlarge)

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THIRD HOBBIT INSTALLMENT GETS A FULL TRAILER!

 

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The third and final (?) Hobbit film arrives in December and now we have a full trailer in all it’s glory. I absolutely love Jackson’s LordOf The Rings trilogy but, have not been so endeared to the Hobbit films, which I feel are unnecessarily filled with filler to stretch a moderately sized book into three movies (My reviews for An  Unexpected Journey and Desolation Of Smaug). Check out the trailer for The Battle Of The Five Armies here…

source:Joblo/Youtube

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: BURNING BRIGHT (2010)

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BURNING BRIGHT (2010)

Burning Bright is named after a verse in a poem by William Blake titled The Tyger and as this film is about a young woman and her little brother tapped inside a house with such a beast, it is quite appropriate for this surprisingly effective horror/thriller.

The film takes place in Florida and opens with the purchase of a Bengal tiger by John Gaveneau (Garret Dillahunt) from a shady individual (Meatloaf) for a safari exhibit he plans to open. We then cut to pretty Kelly (Briana Evigan) trying to find care for her 12 year old autistic brother Thomas (Charlie Tahan), so she can take advantage of a scholarship she’s been offered. But The money from her recently deceased mother’s account is gone, taken by her step-father, the predator purchasing John. An argument ensues when she returns to the house, but that is nothing compared to waking up the next morning to find the home boarded up for an approaching category 3 hurricane and… that she and Thomas have a very large feline guest sealed inside with them. It seems John needs all the cash he can to turn the family property into that little safari attraction and he’s not above taking out life insurance policies on Kelly and Thomas and locking them inside the house with his latest and very hungry acquisition to ensure their demise and an insurance check. Now Kelly must somehow fend for her life and her little brother’s against one of the world’s most dangerous predators with nowhere to run and no way out.

While the story might be a little convoluted, director Carlos Brooks gives us some really intense action sequences and some nail-biting suspense scenes as Kelly tries to outwit and escape the hungry predator in a limited space. A laundry chute scene is one of the film’s highlights. He makes really good use of the isolated setting of Christine Coyle Johnson, Julie Prendiville Roux and David Higgins’ script and successfully creates the atmosphere of being trapped, isolated and in constant danger. The plot device of there being a raging hurricane outside adds to the tension, but also provides a legitimate excuse for the windows to be boarded up well before Kelly and Thomas go to bed for the night, eliminating the implausibility of it being done without waking them. The director establishes the layout of the house quickly and thus we know where Kelly is going and yet, also where the tiger might be coming from…might. The house is small enough to be claustrophobic yet, large enough so the stalking cat can uncomfortably disappear at times. Brooks creates a true game of cat and mouse between the beast and the very resourceful Kelly, who not only has to deal with the tiger, but an uncooperative autistic brother who tends to wander off or get difficult at the worst possible moments. It’s a plot device that works very well. The use of real tigers in the production also adds to realism and thus the suspense, and the film looks very good on what was probably a modest budget.

Also helping Brooks make this work and so well, is a really strong performance by young Briana Evigan. The daughter of TV actor Greg Evigan, does a great job carrying the film on her shoulders and really sells the character of a woman who is terrified but resourceful and determined enough to fight to survive. She also comes across very genuine, early on, as a young woman who loves her brother very much yet, needs to make difficult decisions concerning him, so she can move forward in her own life. I can’t stress how this movie would not have worked as well without Miss Evigan nailing the feisty, intelligent, strong-willed and compassionate Kelly. Young New Jersey native Charlie Tahan does a really good job of portraying the mentally challenged Thomas and his realistic portrayal makes it work when, the boy ignores immediate danger to get difficult. The character is also treated with respect to the condition portrayed, so it never veers into exploitation territory or appears insensitive. Gaveneau has very little screen time, but you get the impression that the guy is a weenie and a douche, so he makes a successful villain even though he is absent through most of the flick. A good cast with a very impressive leading lady and three very effective feline actors portraying our creature in question.

Overall, this is a very suspenseful and entertaining movie and a very underrated and unappreciated horror. Sure the plot to kill Kelly and Thomas seems a bit extravagant, though it earns points for inventiveness. The film has some flaws, such as the plot element of Kelly feeding the animal raw hamburger with sleeping (?) pills mixed in that goes nowhere, but skilled direction from Carlos Brooks and a dynamite performance from our leading lady turn this into a first rate thriller that never lets up. Recommended for a fun and nail-biting 90 minutes that is a bit of a change from the usual horror! The DVD also has a nice documentary about the making of the film and we get to meet our three feline actors and see how they were cleverly composited into the scenes with Evigan, who is also interviewed.

3 very big kittys.

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JULY 25-27

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Complete estimates are in and Scarlett beats Hercules!

1. “Lucy” $ 44Million

2. “Hercules” $29 Million

3. “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes” $16.4 Million

4. “The Purge: Anarchy” $9.9 Million

5. “Planes: Fire & Rescue” $9.3 Million

6. “Sex Tape” $5.97 Million

7. “Transformers: Age Of Extinction” $4.6 Million

8. “And So It Goes” $4.5 Million

9. “Tammy” $3.4 Million

10. “A Most Wanted Man” $2.7 Million

source: box office mojo

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE and BEETLEJUICE

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This week’s double feature is one that not only works perfectly but, is a lot of fun. It pairs Tim Burton’s first two films together, the hilarious and delightfully surreal Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and the supernatural Gothic laugh fest that is Beetlejuice. Both films would introduce the world to Burton’s cartoonish visual style and have gone on to become cult classics in their own right. When stacked up against his body of work, they still rank as two of his best. So crack open your favorite beverage and enjoy this double bill of offbeat hilarity.
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PEE WEE’s BIG ADVENTURE (1985)

Paul Reubens’ Pee Wee Herman character became a sensation in the 80s. He started out as a more adult-themed comedy act and cable TV show and then became an all-out, though still pretty bizarre, hit children’s show. So, the transition to feature films was a natural and quirky new filmmaker Tim Burton was perfectly picked to guide Pee Wee to the big screen in this cartoonish and surreal adventure.

The plot is simple. Pee Wee’s prized bicycle is stolen and the strange man-child sets off on a cross country adventure to hunt it down and get it back. His travels lead him to some strange places, where he meets some equally strange characters as he follows a trail that takes him all the way to the Alamo and then eventually brings him to Hollywood.

Tim Burton was the perfect director for this project scripted by Reubens, the late Phil Hartman and Michael Varhol. It’s a colorful, yet bizarre, road trip populated by some very eccentric and equally colorful characters. And Burton’s Edward Gorey-ish visual style is perfect for the weird situations Pee Wee gets into such as his encounters with escaped convict Micky (Judd Omen), a rowdy biker gang, the phantom-like Large Marge (Alice Nunn) and the climactic chase through Warner Brothers Studios. Oingo Boingo frontman Danny Elfman was brought in to score and his whimsical musical style was a perfect fit for the situations on-screen. Reubens, Burton and Elfman where so perfectly matched here, it’s sad the three have never, at least so far, collaborated again on another movie, unless you count Reubens’ small role in Batman Returns. Burton brings a sense of whimsy to the proceedings and has no problem indulging in the surreal such as two amusing nightmare sequences where Pee Wee fears about the fate of his bike. The FX are simple and quaint and even involve a little stop-motion animation and it adds to the film’s charm which it has lots of. It gives the film an almost demented fairly tale vibe at times, which fits the universe Reubens has already created for his character.

The cast have a lot of fun with this, too. Reubens is at his Pee Wee best and his reactions to things, such as his impatience with The Alamo tour guide, Tina are just as hysterical as is the broader physical comedy. 80s cutie and icon E.G. Daily plays the only, fairly down to earth character in the film, bike shop repair girl Dottie, who crushes on the reluctant Pee Wee. The rest of the characters are all cartoonish such as spoiled brat and bike theft suspect Francis (Mark Holton) and of course, Lou Cutell as Amazing Larry. And the actors all have a lot of fun with their over the top screen personas. Burton gets good work out of everyone for the gallery of oddball characters that inhabit Pee Wee’s world.

Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is a comedy classic and rightfully so. It’s delightfully offbeat and amusingly surreal at times and Burton was the perfect choice to bring Pee Wee’s off-kilter world to the big screen. The movie is incredibly quotable and I still laugh heartily when I watch it all these years later and it definitely is one of my all time favorite comedies. And if that makes me a geek, fine… I know you are but, what am I ?

3 and 1/2 Pee Wees!

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BEETLEJUICE (1988)

Burton’s sophomore feature teamed him with another comic icon Michael Keaton, in this tale that puts a spin on the traditional haunted house story by having the ghosts trying to remove the humans from their house and not the other way around and turning in desperation to the demonic bio-exorcist Beetlejuice (Keaton) for help.

The story has young couple Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam (Alec Baldwin) Maitland, living a peaceful life in their large house in a remote New England town… until a horrible accident brings about their premature demise. But, things get worse for the dearly departed couple when, as they try to adjust to their new after-life, their home is invaded by the new owners, the new age Deetz family, Charles (Jeffery Jones), Delia (Catherine O’Hara) and their Goth emo daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder). With their gaudy interior decorator Otho (Glenn Shadix) in tow, they begin to completely remodel the Maitland’s house. The ghostly couple try to haunt the new family out but, only wind up intriguing them and in desperation, they turn to the demonic entity known as Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton) to evict the Deetzes from their home. But, they have started to bond with Lydia and realize all too late that the funky phantom they have unleashed has a far more sinister agenda and becomes a far worse problem then the Deetzes and their plans to turn the house into a paranormal sideshow attraction.

Written by Warren Skaaren and Michael McDowell from a story by McDowell and Larry Wilson, this was another film perfectly suited to Burton’s gothic, offbeat visual style and his quirky sense of whimsy. Burton really gets to have some surreal visual fun with his presentations of the afterlife and in the design of some of the supernatural beings that inhabit it. His teaming with Keaton is also perfect as the actor gets to really chew up the scenery as the bizarre and slightly perverse Beetlejuice. The character comes across less an actual demon than your creepy, pervy, alcoholic uncle… on crack… and that’s kinda what makes it work. Keaton is completely over the top and it fits Burton’s over the top style directing style very well. While not all the bits work, most do and the film is not only flat out hysterical at times but, whimsically spooky at others. The climactic last act when Beetlejuice is loosed on the Deetzes dinner party and trying to wed Lydia so he can remain corporeal is an amusement park ride, almost literally, and it makes it worth the wait to see him finally and fully unleashed. The film also makes it’s ghost characters, The Maitlands, the only normal people in the movie which adds to the turning the traditional haunting premise on it’s head. The film is a lot of fun and Burton imbues it with some nice sentimental moments too. Here he still knew when to temper the outlandish with the subtle, something some of his recent films seem to have lost. The FX here are very inventive and not only include some very bizarre make-up and prosthetics but, some charming stop-motion animation as well. A time before CGI and it’s all the more charming for it. Despite a modest budget the quaint FX enhance the film’s atmosphere and add to the fun. Again Danny Elfman was brought into score and again his music fits the film like a spooky glove.

As for the human cast elements, despite not having as much screen time as you might think, it’s Keaton’s show and he takes the demonic ball and runs with it. He is completely and unapologetically over the top as the perverted and devious oddball demon that is Beetlejuice. He has a lot of great bits to chew on and while not every line is knee-slapping, Keaton gives them his all anyway and the film would not have worked so well without him. Davis and Baldwin make a very endearing couple of ghosts and they have a really great chemistry together and with Ryder. The fact that they are played as the most normal characters in the film adds to the charm and they both give very down to earth performances… pun intended. It really works as a nice contrast to the eccentric Deetzes and their weird friends and, of course, Beetlejuice himself. And as the Deetzes there is also a nice contrast here with Jeffery Jones’ more down to earth real estate developer and Catherine O’Hara’s delightfully eccentric new age sculptor wife. Add in the adorably gloomy Lydia brought to life by a cute, young Winona Ryder and the obnoxious and self centered Otho, made all the more amusing by a scenery chewing Glenn Shadix (who sadly passed away in 2010 due to injuries sustained in a fall in his home). A very well cast comedy with some very talented people doing what they do best.

I love this movie. Sure, not all the bits work and a slightly tighter script could have made it even more of a tour de force for the eclectic cast but, with Keaton creating an iconic character and some truly inventively designed otherworldly characters and sequences, you get a very original and now classic comedy and a film that is still, in my opinion, one of both Burton’s and Keaton’s best. A delight even close to 30 years later. Also features cameos by Robert Goulet and Dick Cavett.

3 and 1/2 Beetlejuices!

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