SCHWARZENEGGER ZOMBIE FLICK “MAGGIE” GETS A TRAILER!

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Interesting looking Schwarzenegger flick has the Austrian Oak playing a Midwestern father trying to protect his daughter (Abigail Breslin) who has been infected during a zombie outbreak. Film is directed by Henry Hobson and written by John Scott 3. Maggie opens 5/22/15.

MonsterZero NJ

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SCOTT SPEER’S “REALM” SHORT TO GET THE FEATURE FILM TREATMENT!

 

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A cool short film called Realm written by John Swetnam and directed by Scott Speer (Step-up Revolution) has apparently gotten the attention of Relativity and is going to get the feature film treatment. Story seems to be a more religious themed Buffy The Vampire Slayer meets The Exorcist meets Anime as it presents a pretty young girl, Claire Daniels (The Purge’s Adelaide Kane), who can enter the souls of those possessed and battle the demons in a sort of demon realm. Looks kinda cool and I hope they keep Miss Kane as the lead. I think she is an undiscovered talent and reminds me of a Buffy era Eliza Dushku. Watch the short for yourself below…

Source: Joblo/Vimeo/Youtube

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: LADY IN WHITE (1988)

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LADY IN WHITE (1988)

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

I have to admit I only just saw this for the first time a short while ago. One of those flicks that slipped between the cracks. I’ve watched it twice now and, to be honest, can’t say that it really worked for me. Film, based on a real legend from Rochester N.Y., is considered a bit of a classic and tells the story of young Frankie Scarletti (Lukas Haas) who sees the ghost of a murdered girl and is almost himself killed by the man responsible. Now the spirits of the girl and her mourning mother, known as The Lady In White, won’t let Frankie rest till he solves the mystery of who done it…a mystery that could add him to the list of the fiend’s young victims.

Biggest problem for me is that the tone of the film is all over the place. One minute it’s a whimsical Spielberg-ish comedy such as in the opening scenes, the next minute a supernatural thriller in a Disney vein complete with floating, glowing specters and the next, a serious drama dealing with racism and the murder of little kids. It goes back and forth and writer/director Frank LaLoggia never settles on exactly what film he is trying to make. And when it comes to it’s more whimsical moments, the whimsy often slips into outright silly. LaLoggia does have a sumptuous visual eye and the film looks great, especially during the fairy tale-like supernatural scenes but, those scenes and the slapstick humor don’t gel with the more serious issues such as the murder of young children and the accusing of the wrong man solely because he is black. LaLoggia’s scene staging is also a bit clumsy and his work with actors isn’t much better as most of the performances across the board are wooden and even from veteran actors like Len Cariou and Alex Rocco, though Haas does good work for a kid his age. The fact that Frankie’s family is filled with cartoonish Italian stereotypes also weakens any potency the film tries to build…especially when it tries to make statements about racism and prejudice…and the dialog all-around is weak at times. Not to mention that we the audience have solved the who-dunnit long before the last act reveal. Overall, the film comes across as very corny, silly and a bit bombastic at times, which overpowers some of the simple charm it develops in quieter moments. The FX are also pretty cheesy by today’s standards and it’s hard to be chilled by what they represent. On the plus side, there is an atmospheric score by LaLoggia himself and Russell Carpenter provided the beautiful cinematography which really shines when the film delves into it’s more fantastic elements.

So, I can’t really say I like the film, because I really didn’t. There are some nice fantasy sequences and the visuals are sumptuous but, the tone is uneven and LaLoggia isn’t really a good director when it comes to getting performances out of the actors and staging scenes. He doesn’t seem to know what kind of film he really wants to make and never decides on a tone to properly set his tale. He also is overindulgent when subtle was working just fine. The film has some nice moments but, is too scatterbrained to be completely effective. Overall, it’s a bit of a silly film that has serious aspirations that just don’t blend with the more whimsical and fantastic elements. At least it is far better than his Fear No Evil, which is absolutely awful.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 ladies in white.

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MARCH 20-22

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office!

1. “Insurgent” $54 Million

2. “Cinderella” $34.5 Million

3. “Run All Night” $5.1 Million

4. “The Gunman” $5 Million

5. “Kingsman: The Secret Service” $4.6 Million

6. “Do You Believe?” $4 Million

7. “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” $3.45 Million

8. “Focus” $3.3 Million

9. “Chappie” $2.65 Million

10. “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water” $2.35 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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BARE BONES: THE MYTH OF THE AMERICAN SLEEPOVER, THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY P.1 and ST. VINCENT

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THE MYTH OF THE AMERICAN SLEEPOVER (2010)

After seeing David Robert Mitchell’s much acclaimed horror It Follows, I decided to check out his first feature film, a teen-centric comedy/drama. Flick takes place in the Detroit suburbs and tells the story of a group of teens on the night before school starts as they wander back and forth between a number of sleepovers looking for love or simply to punctuate the last day of summer vacation. The film is enjoyable and is more of a low key flick than the usual bombastic Hollywood style teen movies. This works both for and against it, as while it is more realistic and spares us the usual cliché melodrama and slapstick that a lot of teen flicks have, the drawback is that none of the characters are particularly interesting and nothing particularly interesting happens. It has a charm to it and the cast are all very convincing, so it is overall a pleasant watch, but kind of forgettable at the same time. Does exhibit more of Mitchell’s skilled shot composition that made It Follows so effective. Worth a look, especially if It Follows made you a fan of Mitchell’s. An enjoyable little movie, but maybe a little too understated for it’s own good.

3 star rating

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THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY p.1 (2014)

I liked the first flick, but found the second installment to be a darker, more depressing retread. While this installment takes the story in a different direction with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) now sequestered in the rebel stronghold and being pressured into becoming the figurehead of the rebellion, it’s still bleak, depressing and filled with overblown melodrama. There’s a few decent action sequences and Lawrence does her best with the material, but make up your minds…is Katniss a strong force to be reckoned with, or a weepy emotional mess that seems on the verge of a breakdown. She switches back and forth from scene to scene. Production value is strong and Francis Lawrence gives it a bit more of a steady pace than the meandering Catching Fire, but the film still failed to really hold my interest or attention. Never read the books and the films don’t inspire me to do so.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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St. VINCENT (2014)

I really enjoyed writer/director Theodore Melfi’s comedy/drama about cranky, down-on-his-luck, alcoholic spinster Vincent MacKenna (Bill Murray) whose life changes when he gets a new neighbor, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and begins to babysit her young son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) to get some much needed cash. Sure, we’ve seen this story about a kid who changes the life of a bitter, angry, older character before, but it’s done so well here and mixes the schmaltz perfectly with some laugh-out-loud humor. Murray is in top form and McCarthy, who I am not a fan of, proves she can be more than just a female Chris Farley. Best of all is young Jaeden Lieberher who really shines and tugs the heartstrings as the awkward Oliver and a scene-stealing Naomi Watts as Vincent’s pregnant Russian hooker associate, Daka. She is absolutely hilarious. The cast all have a great chemistry together, especially Murray and Lieberher and the film never goes overboard with the sentimental bits or the comedy. In fact the sentimental moments really resonate, such as the scenes with Murray and his Alzheimer afflicted wife Sandy (Donna Mitchell). A really good movie and maybe a bit of an underrated/under-appreciated one!

three and one half stars rating

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 -MonsterZero NJ
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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: BIRTH OF THE LIVING DEAD (2013)

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BIRTH OF THE LIVING DEAD (2013)

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

Birth is a fun and informative documentary on the making of one of the greatest horror films of all time. The flick chronicles how George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead came to be, through not only interviews with the legendary filmmaker himself but, reflections and observations from others such as indie filmmaking fixture Larry Fessenden (who also produced), Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Heard, NOTLD star Bill Hinzman (earlier interview footage from before his death in 2012) and a host of others. They takes us through Romero’s interest in being a filmmaker, to his early commercial days, to the financing and filming and then to the struggle to get it released and it’s eventual impact. They also compare events going on in the world, at the time, such as the Viet Nam War and how it effected the way people viewed Romero’s classic, to how Romero’s trend-setting zombie epic unintentionally reflected a lot of what was going on in the world, as well. It’s very entertaining and takes one inside the making of a little movie that has become a bonifide classic. We find out how some of the film’s most effective elements were sometimes by mistake or simply out of budgetary necessity and how some of the most quotable lines were ad-libbed on the spot. We also get the sad story of how a simple mistake robbed Romero and company of any rights and profits from the movie to this day. And we discover that the groundbreaking casting of a black hero at a time when that was still not a popular notion in Hollywood, was simply a case of hiring the right actor to play the part and no one saw the racial impact the casting of Duane Jones would have. The part wasn’t even written race specific. All in all, it’s a charming and very affectionate look at the making of one of horrors all time greatest flicks from one of it’s most celebrated filmmakers. A must for Romero and zombie film fans alike.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Romeros.

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INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3 GETS A TRAILER!

 

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I liked the first two Insidious flicks and now the third installment, written and directed by series writer Leigh Whannell, has a trailer. While the series is starting to look like it’s running out of gas, I’ll still give this prequel a look. Opens 6/5/15.

Review for Insidious… HERE.

Review for Insidious: Chapter 2… HERE.

MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: BIRDMAN and FURY

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BIRDMAN (2014)

Birdman is a quirky and refreshingly off-beat comedy/drama from director Alejandro G. Iñárritu and appropriately stars Michael Keaton as Riggan Thompson, an actor trying to reignite his fading star. Riggan was once world famous for starring in the lead of the popular superhero franchise, Birdman. Now he’s entering his 60s and trying to validate himself and add some relevance back to his life by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway play. Obviously, what can go wrong, will go wrong and there are an eccentric group of characters…including his imaginary, costumed alter-ego…in the mix to add to Riggan’s troubles. Iñárritu has a very original style that fits the story so well. It’s filled with lengthy tracking shots following our characters from scene to scene and some delightfully surreal moments as well. The cast are all top notch, with Keaton giving one of his best performances and it definitely is his show. He is supported by the likes of Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough who are all excellent in their roles, too. But, in my humble opinion, it is Emma Stone who steals every scene she’s in with her best work to date as Riggan’s fresh out of rehab daughter. She is simply a powerhouse in some scenes and holds her own…and more…with the seasoned veterans. A flick worthy of it’s praise. The only negative I had was that the jazz drum score got on my nerves after awhile. Otherwise, a great little movie.

three and one half stars rating

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FURY (2014)

If you are a fan of WWII flicks and all the familiar trappings, then you’ll probably enjoy this. I found it to be kinda dull and any dramatic weight or intensity of the action is brought down by an overload of clichés. The story, written and directed by David Ayer, finds Staff Sergeant Don Collier (Brad Pitt) leading his tank crew deep into Germany in 1945 to clean up the last of the German military resistance…and not having an easy time of it. Ayer throws every cliché in the book from situations to stereotypical war movie characters and adds some Private Ryan style violence, but the effect is still that we’ve seen it all before, since the very first WWII movie was made. The film is well-directed and action well-staged, but it’s just too familiar to be interesting and takes very few risks to liven things up. If you like this kind of film, go for it. Otherwise it’s nothing you haven’t seen in countless other likewise movies. The solid cast also stars Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña, Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal and Logan Lerman as the stereotypical green newbie.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: IT FOLLOWS (2014)

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IT FOLLOWS (2014)

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

As I was watching this much-hyped horror thriller for the first two thirds, I truly felt I might be witnessing this generation find it’s Halloween. It’s only in it’s final act when writer/director David Robert Mitchell loses his grip a bit and his chiller comes to an abrupt end, that the film falls short.

The story opens with a young girl (Bailey Spry) fleeing her own house in terror and making her way to a deserted beach where she meets a gruesome fate. We then cut to pretty Detroit teen Jay (Maika Monroe) who is going out on a date with a handsome young man named Hugh (Jake Weary). The date takes an odd turn but, Jay sees him again and this time has sex with him in his car. Hugh then abducts Jay and proceeds to tell her that he has passed something on to her and it is now coming to kill her. She, in turn, must now pass it on to someone else, by way of intercourse, or die…and if she dies, it will turn it’s attention back to Hugh. This entity can look like anyone it wants, can only be seen by those marked and will stalk her until it gets her…unless she passes this ‘curse’ on to another. He gives her a glimpse of her pursuer, in the guise of a naked woman, but, before it gets too close, he escapes with her and takes her home, leaving her to her fate. Now Jay is in constant pursuit by this being and there is nowhere she is safe and few who believe her. Can she save herself by putting someone else in harm’s way? Or can she and her friends find a way to stop it…if, indeed, it can be stopped.

David Robert Mitchell knows how to build suspense and scares here. That, combined with his shot framing and the film’s pulse-pounding electronic score by Disasterpeace, evokes John Carpenter and his classic chiller very often. Mitchell, knows how to use shadows and lighting to create tension along with a strong atmosphere and mood of constant dread and can build some pretty scary scenes right out in broad daylight, too. With the added skill of cinematographer Mike Gioulakis, this flick also looks great, as well as, conveys a constant feeling that something isn’t right. Also like Carpenter’s masterpiece, the villain here is ambiguous and stays that way and, like Michael Myers, is relentless in it’s quest to kill Jay. There is almost non-stop tension and chills during this pursuit and some flat-out scary sequences. Whether you look at it as a metaphor for the fear of STDs or simply as a horror flick, the first two thirds of this movie live up to the hype. Unfortunately, though, the film falls short of instant classic status as it loses it’s way a bit in the last act. Mitchell doesn’t really seem to know how to wrap this story up, so, we get an intense pool-set confrontation, that ultimately goes nowhere and then an abrupt ending soon after. Granted, Carpenter’s ending was a bit ambiguous, too, but, still was a satisfying conclusion that left us considerably spooked as the credits rolled. Here it’s more of a head scratcher, which leaves one asking “That’s it?” It’s too bad, as with a third act equal to what came before it, this might truly have been this generation’s Halloween. It’s that scary at times. With the last act weakness aside, there is still a lot to like about this flick and ultimately I did really enjoy it. There are enough scares and tension to satisfy and even if the film lost it’s grip when it should have tightened it, you still get more than your money’s worth overall. I also liked how Mitchell used the suburban Detroit locations to give the film a fresh look and his young cast all did a good job, especially lead Maika Monroe (The Guest).

Between this and The Guest, I can say Maika Monroe is a star in the making. She gives us a vivacious and real young women who is plunged into a world that is terrifying and unsafe no matter where she turns. She is strong to a degree but, not having the tools to fight back, is slowly breaking her down. She also struggles with the notion that simply having sex with someone else can possibly save her but, can she do that to someone…and if she does and they die, she’s back to being it’s target and an innocent is dead. Monroe conveys it all very well. The rest of the cast are also strong. Keir Gilchrist is sympathetic as Paul, a friend who has been crushing on Jay for years but, she doesn’t see him that way. Lili Sepe is good as her strong-willed and sometimes wiser little sister Kelly. Daniel Zovatto is solid as Greg, a neighbor who has a past with Jay and is willing to help despite his disbelief. Rounding out is Olivia Luccardi as their perky friend Yara, who has the least to do but, does it well. The entity itself is never played by the same person twice, but, Mitchell always evokes a strong threat and sense of fear from whomever is playing it.

Overall, I highly recommend this horror. It has a bit of a fresh look and feel, despite heavily evoking John Carpenter’s classic of stalked teens and provides some downright scary sequences, especially in it’s first two thirds. It does wander off the path a bit in the last act…though certainly not nearly enough to sink it…and doesn’t quite wrap up in the completely satisfying way it needs to. Flaws aside, though, this is still a very effective and scary horror. So, while it falls a bit short of being the Halloween for a new generation, it’s still a damn scary as hell horror flick and shows big things ahead for director David Robert Mitchell and star Maika Monroe.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 haunted heroines.

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MARCH 13-15

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office!

1. “Cinderella” $70 Million

2. “Run All Night” $11 Million

3. “Kingsman: The Secret Service” $6.2 Million

4. “Focus” $5.81 Million

5. “Chappie” $5.8 Million

6. “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” $5.7 Million

7. “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water” $4.1 Million

8. “McFarland, USA” $3.7 Million

9. “American Sniper” $2.93 Million

10. “The DUFF” $2.9 Million

source: Box Office Mojo

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