BOOK REVIEW: MEG by STEVE ALTEN

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I’ve said this before. While primarily a movie site, every now and then at MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse I do crank out a book review if it’s something I think warrants attention or is simply movie related. Steve Alten’s prehistoric shark thriller MEG, has been designated to be filmed for decades but, has spent just as long in development hell. Now it’s been announced that filmmaker and movie geek personality Eli Roth has been signed to direct the most recent attempt. Will Roth finally get this flick in the can? Only time will tell. So, how is the actual book?…

MEG by STEVE ALTEN

Been curious about this book for a while and now that it’s once again being announced as a movie, I thought I would finally check it out. It’s a fast paced and fun read but, I can definitely see where certain set pieces would be tough to translate to film. Some for their massive scale and some because, in the wrong hands, they could come off as very silly.

The book focuses on likable hero Professor Jonas Taylor who was once one of the best deep sea explorers on the planet, till an incident that claimed the lives of two of his crew…an incident he claims was with a massive predator that hasn’t swam the seas for millions of years. Since then, Jonas has not been on a dive and has spent his time studying the prehistoric shark known as the Megalodon and how it might have survived in deep water canyons miles below the surface. There are those that think he’s crazy, but, there are those like Masao Tanaka, who might believe him. At Tanaka’s bidding, he gets the chance to return to the depths of the deepest canyon on Earth and finds his theories frighteningly correct. The beasts still live! A horrible series of events then bring a 60 foot female Megalodon up to the surface and now Jonas must hunt the very creature no one believed him existed. A hungry creature on a murderous rampage and heading for the California coast.

Overall, this is a tight and action packed story that moves like a rocket and there is a lot of gory carnage caused by our massive female carnivore. It is only in some of the soap opera level sub-plots and melodramatics, such as a really dull scenario with Jonas’ ambitious witch of a wife, Maggie, where the book produces eye rolling and groans. Maggie Taylor could have been removed from the book totally without hurting the plot and similar sub-plots are equally corny, predictable and cliché. Jonas has a shrew of a wife and Tanaka has a hot daughter…you know where that is going from the early pages. It’s also hurt by a completely ludicrous final confrontation with the monster shark that might be one reason the film has yet to be made. It will be tough to translate to film without coming across as silly…then again, Spielberg was able to give Jaws a far more cinematic ending, maybe Roth can do the same. This still is a fun book and flaws aside a perfectly suitable Summer read. It’s got likable heroes and some detestable human villains and of course a hungry 60 foot prehistoric great white on the loose. Give it some slack and it is an entertaining enough read to pass the time at the beach or the park. And the best thing about a movie adaptation is that a talented writer could fix those flaws for the movie.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Megalodon teeth!

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: MELANIE PAPALIA

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MELANIE PAPALIA

This newest installment of Halloween Hotties features a relatively new scream queen on the block, Canadian actress Melanie Papalia. This hardworking beauty has kept very busy since her first TV role in 2003 and along the way has had some close calls with the horror genre with roles on Blade: The Series and Supernatural, along with a part in the killer car flick Super Hybrid. It wasn’t until 2012 with a role in the internet themed slasher Smiley, that she made her presence fully known in the genre and she’s continues to make an impression with two more sassy, spunky performances in two more genre flicks since…

(Click on the highlighted links or on the movie posters to read a review of her horror film’s that I’ve covered here previously. )

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SMILEY

While 2012’s Smiley may not have achieved all it set out to, Papalia certainly made us take notice as sassy party girl, Proxy, who is roomate to the film’s heroine, Ashley (Caitlin Gerard). Ashley and Proxy conduct a dangerous experiment with an internet urban legend and unintentionally unleash a mysterious masked killer on an unsuspecting campus. Oops!

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Melanie Papalia as feisty party girl, Proxy!

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Proxy and Ashley may have taken an internet urban legend a bit too lightly.

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Has an innocent prank put the fun loving vixen in jeopardy? See Smiley to find out!

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THE DEN

Melanie Papalia returned to horror in 2013 in the clever, internet set chiller The Den. This flick takes place totally on the laptop of Papalia’s heroine, Elizabeth Denton, whose research project on the behavior of people in internet chat communities, attracts the wrong kind of attention from a dangerous and demented individual. Papalia took center stage here and carried this disturbing flick on her petite, but sturdy shoulders. A very effective little movie whose leading lady helps make it work with a strong performance!

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Pretty Elizabeth may have picked the wrong social studies project…

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…as she soon finds herself and her friends in harm’s way, targeted by a maniac!

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Our feisty heroine isn’t giving up without a fight!

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EXTRATERRESTRIAL

Melanie’s latest foray into horror…and hopefully, far from her last…was the really fun 2014 Sci-Fi/horror Extraterrestrial from the Vicious Brothers (Grave Encounters)! In this chilling and really entertaining flick, Papalia plays another feisty party girl, who, along with friends, is trapped in a secluded mountain cabin by some vengeful space aliens.

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Papalia’s character, also named “Melanie”, is maybe too inquisitive for her own good?

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A calmer moment before the pissing off of some unfriendly ETs!

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Is that a…

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Melanie and friends learn pissing off aliens is never a good thing.

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Party girl, bad girl or final girl, it doesn’t matter to us! We would love to see this gorgeous and talented lady from Up North in more genre flicks, as she’s already made quite an impression in the films she’s done. Whether in peril from internet entities, fighting off demented killers, or fleeing not-so-little green men, we just want to see this Canadian charmer get the spotlight she deserves!…and while horror is our favorite choice, we’d pretty much watch this talented lass in just about anything!

-MonsterZero NJ

And don’t forget to check out our Halloween Hotties focusing on Briana EviganKatrina BowdenAlexandra DaddarioKatie FeatherstonKatharine IsabelleAmber Heard and Danielle Harris! (just click on their names to go to their pages!)

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JUNE 26-28

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office!

1. “Jurassic World” $54.2 Million

2. “Inside Out” $52.1 Million

3. “Ted 2” $33 Million

4. “Max” $12.2 Million

5. “Spy” $7.8 Million

6. “San Andreas” $5.3 Million

7. “Dope” $2.9 Million

8. “Insidious: Chapter 3” $2 Million

9. “Mad Max: Fury Road” $1.7 Million

10. “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” $16 Million

source: Box Office Mojo

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REVIEW: TED 2 (2015)

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TED 2 (2015)

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

Not being a fan of Seth Macfarlane’s Family Guy, I was pleasantly surprised by his 2012 talking teddy bear comedy Ted. It’s not a great movie by any stretch but, it was actually very funny at times and had a surprising amount of heart. The film was a huge hit and now the ‘Thunder Buddies’ are back!…and if you liked Ted, I find it hard to believe you won’t like this.

Ted 2 opens with the self-aware bear marrying his girlfriend and fellow cashier from work, Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), while John (Mark Wahlberg) is still suffering from the effects of his divorce from Lori. The film then jumps a year later where the honeymoon is over and Ted and his bride can’t get along. Taking advice from a co-worker, Ted decides the best way to fix the marriage is by having a baby…something he is physically incapable of doing. At first…in a hilarious series of segments…he tries to get a sperm donor. When they find Tami-Lynn barren from all her years of drug use, they try to adopt. Ted, though, is viewed by law as an object and therefor not eligible to adopt. Ted and John must now, somehow, get the courts to acknowledge Ted as a living person and so, they hire pretty, young lawyer Samantha (Amanda Seyfried) to try to prove it. Meanwhile, Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) is back and with the help of a toy company CEO, plots to see Ted’s efforts fail so they can have the talking bear in their clutches without consequence.

Macfarlane is back in the director’s chair and once again co-writes with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild. The result is pretty much the same with a plethora of toilet humor, stoner jokes and pop culture references which play out during the thin excuse for a plot. Not every joke or bit works, but, a lot do and the film still has far more heart than you would expect in a low brow comedy. There are some truly funny gags here…one involving Ted and John in a fertility clinic is particularly hysterical…and some very amusing cameos…such as a side-splitting Liam Neeson. Macfarlane even teases star Amanda Seyfriend about her large expressive eyes with a couple of Gollum references and the actress gets ‘good sport’ points for going along with it all the way. If nothing else, the finale set at New York City Comic Con is worth seeing this alone for, especially if you’re a geek and get all the references and costumes that get dragged into the mayhem. Sure the flick is far from perfect with a weak story, a strong predictability…John and Samantha, like we didn’t see THAT coming…and some very cliché situations but, the characters of John and Ted are endearing as ever and it’s their antics we came to see and Macfarlane delivers more often than not. At the very least this sequel is an equal and that’s good enough.

Obviously, the cast helps makes this work and some surprising faces get to show they have a sense of humor and can take a joke. Wahlberg is once again fun as simple working guy John Bennett. His phony Boston accent and surprising comic timing make him a good team with Macfarlane’s vocalization of the smart-ass, foul-mouthed, CGI Ted. Two friends who refuse to grow up and there is a chemistry between the performers that really makes the pairing special, even when the jokes fall flat. The biggest surprise here is Seyfried. I am a fan of the actress and was delighted to see that she not only can play low-brow comedy but, she plays it very well and fits right in with the boys. She not only is very funny but, also appears to be a good sport with the Gollum jokes and keeping a straight face when smoking an interestingly shaped bong. She has a flare for comedy and Macfarlane smartly let’s her cut loose in contrast to the more straightedged Lori (Mila Kunis) in part one. Ribisi is slimy and creepy again as Donny and we also get fun appearances from the likes of Morgan Freeman and a returning Sam J. Jones and Patrick Warburton in smaller roles…and some very funny cameos from an assortment of familiar faces including some Star Trek alumni.

Normally I am not a fan of Macfarlane’s humor but, something about the characters of John and Ted and the predicaments they get into are endearing and sometimes, just really funny. Sure the humor is beyond raunchy and Macfarlane and his co-scripters leave nothing sacred…a Ferguson, Missouri crack had the audience groan in shock… but, that’s kinda why we see these movies…to see how far they’ll go. Raunchiness like this needs humor and wit behind it, though…which was missing in Macfarlane’s A Million Ways To Die In The West…to really work. For the most part, Ted 2 has some definite cleverness in the toilet humor and some rebellious audacity, too. Not every joke is funny…again, the Ferguson reference…or every slapstick sequence a knee-slapper, but, the film succeeds far more than it fails and despite being about an animated teddy bear, that bear does have a heart buried under all the bodily fluid references.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 Teds.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968)

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DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968)

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

Hammer Studios brought ‘new blood’ to their Dracula series with a new director, Hammer and Amicus regular Freddie Francis, armed with a script by Anthony Hinds. The result is one of the best of the sequels and a film where Lee was really given the opportunity to own the character of Dracula.

Story takes place a year after Dracula’s defeat and destruction and the villagers are still fearful of the evil they say remains lurking in his castle. Monsignor Mueller (Rupert Davies) arrives to find a distressing malaise that even keeps people from the church that lies in the castle’s shadow. He commands the local alcoholic priest (Ewan Hooper) to follow him to the castle itself to perform an exorcism. The ritual is successful but, an accident releases Dracula (Christopher Lee) from his icy tomb and now locked out of his house, plans to avenge himself on Mueller…and his beautiful niece, Maria (Hammer hottie Veronica Carlson). With the troubled priest in his thrall, can Dracula and his diabolical plans be stopped?

Former cinematographer Francis brings not only a new vibrant look and sumptuous visuals to the Dracula series but, ups the ante in the sex and blood department. Hinds’ script also gives Lee plenty of time onscreen and plenty of dialogue for the actor to bite into. We get a busty/lusty serving girl (Barabara Ewing) who is quite happy to let Dracula take a nip and is even jealous when he wants to dip his fangs elsewhere. Lee’s Dracula takes his female meals with far more sexual relish than in the previous two flicks and his Count is far more vicious when provoked…which is often. We also have a lively hero in Maria’s boyfriend Paul (Barry Andrews) and there is a lot more action than the moderately paced predecessors. While I would never characterize the last two films as ‘stuffy’ there was a moderation to things that Freddie Francis casts off for a more audacious entry that spatters blood often and gives Lee a chance to really strut his cape. Francis and cinematographer Arthur Grant use a very effective crimson iris filter whenever Lee is onscreen, that really accents that he is bathed in evil and overall, creates a palate of vivid colors that contrast the look of Fisher’s more subtle colored Dracula films. James Bernard returns again to score and it all combines for the bloodiest and sexiest entry in the series so far, cutting loose a bit, yet, without ever straying into camp.

Christopher Lee really locks in the role here, especially since he is given a lot to say and do. He masterfully creates a vicious monster who is equal parts diabolical and sexy and his scenes with his beautiful leading ladies are both eerie and enticing. This may be one of his best performances as the legendary vampire. Davies makes a good foe as Mueller, though his arrogance as a man of the cloth leaves him vulnerable. Ewan Hooper is actually sympathetic as a priest whose has lost his faith and now is the servant of the very evil he once vowed to oppose. Hooper plays the constant inner conflict very well. Andrews makes an interesting hero as the rambunctious student and atheist Paul. He is more impulsive and yet, noble and brave when Maria’ life is threatened and the film doesn’t ignore his having to face an evil he thought didn’t exist. A character that is in contrast to the prim, proper and religious characters of Fisher’s entries. Barbara Ewing is simply hot as serving girl/beer wench Zena and she is a lively and sexy woman, also in contrast to the chaste ladies that served as our female characters in the first two films. Even Carlson’s Maria is adorned with a playful sexiness that the female heroines of the series lacked so far. Still a damsel but, one not afraid to sneak out across the rooftops to visit her boyfriend.

I really enjoyed this sequel. It may be my favorite after the classic Horror Of Dracula, and certainly one of the most fun of the series. The film casts off the more restrained atmosphere of the Terrance Fisher films and gives us some blood and boobs (though still covered somewhat) and lets Lee really cut loose and revel in his Dracula’s bedside manner. The colors are vivid and bright and the characters, lively and more fun. There is plenty of action, bloodshed and best of all, plenty of Dracula! A very entertaining entry and possibly the best of the sequels in this series that maintained a level of quality almost till the final entry.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 fangs.

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“PARANORMAL ACTIVITY : THE GHOST DIMENSION” GETS A TRAILER!

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What is being proclaimed as the final chapter in this series, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension finally has a trailer. Sources say this flick will answer all the open questions, be partially in 3D and bring this successful found footage series to a conclusion. While these films have divided horror fans down the middle, I personally have had fun with them and hope this ends the series on a high note.

Of the new film, producer Jason Blum said… “It’s coming to an end. This is it, the finale. We’re saying it before the movie opens. We’re not going to grind this horror franchise into the ground. This will keep Paranormal Activity as part of this culture and this particular time in a really fantastic way…All the questions that everyone has asked from the past Paranormal Activity films: What does Toby look like? What’s the backstory to the families? These questions have been teased out. Now they will be answered.”

And of the plot… “a new family, the Fleeges — father Ryan (Chris J. Murray), mother Emily (Brit Shaw) and their young daughter Leila (Ivy George) — who move into a house and discover a video camera and a box of tapes in the garage. When they look through the camera’s lens, they begin to see the paranormal activity happening around them – including the re-emergence of young Kristi and Katie.”

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is slated to open in theaters 10/23/2015!

-MonsterZero NJ

Sources:  ShockTillYouDrop/Youtube/USA Today

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FAREWELL AND R.I.P. JAMES HORNER!

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James Horner.arriving at the Los Angeles Premiere of Avatar.Grauman's Chinese Theater.Los Angeles,  CA.December 16, 2009.©2009 Kathy Hutchins / Hutchins Photo.

James Horner 1953-2015

Very sad news! Mega film composer James Horner died yesterday, in the crash of his private plane, at the age of 61. Horner got his start working for Roger Corman scoring films like Battle Beyond The Stars and Humanoids from the Deep and broke big when hired to create the soundtrack to Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan. He went on to a prolific career of composing classic scores for some classic films such as Titanic, Braveheart and Avatar. He will be greatly missed, as will his talent! He was one of my favorites!

-MonsterZero NJ

Sources: internet

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966)

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DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966)

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

Eight years after Horror of Dracula, Christopher Lee and The Count returned, as did writer Jimmy Sangster, from a story by Anthony Hinds, and director Terence Fisher. Sequel takes place ten years after the previous film’s events with the villages surrounding Dracula’s castle still fearful and superstitious, despite his demise. Two couples are journeying past and are warned not to go to nearby Karlsbad and certainly stay away from the castle. They do not listen and when their driver abandons them on the road, a mysterious carriage picks them up and brings them to the castle. A man named Klove (Philip Latham) claims to be the servant of the long dead Dracula and that his master bid the castle always be prepared to receive guests…I’ll bet! Klove sacrifices one of the guests and pours their blood over Dracula’s ashes and soon The Count (Christopher Lee) rises from the dead and is hungry for the surviving members of the ill-fated party. Will they survive his thirst even with the help of a vampire savvy monk (Andrew Keir)?

Sequel is fun but, is a bit of a letdown when compared to the first film. Fisher does give the film some atmosphere and it can be quite bloody, but, it takes half the running time for Dracula to finally rise and then he doesn’t have all that many scenes. That and he never speaks a world of dialogue, just glares or hisses when angered and robs us of Lee’s intimidating baritone voice and impeccable line delivery. Andrew Keir’s Father Sandor is a fine enough adversary but, he’s no Van Helsing and no Peter Cushing. It’s a mystery why Cushing’s vampire fighter wasn’t brought back till Dracula A.D. 1972. The sets and production design are still a gothic treat and there is some intense action but, it’s too bad the film waits 45 minutes to reintroduce The Count and then never really gives us time to re-establish his threat. The film is technically sound. There is another effective score by the returning James Bernard and Michael Reed matches the muted color scheme of Jack Asher’s cinematography from the first film. A lesser effort but, still has a lot of what we like in these movies.

The cast are all fine. Lee is still intimidating as Dracula despite being given no dialogue and only having maybe ten minutes, or so, of screen time. Andrew Keir is suitable enough as Father Sandor and he is a good character but, Cushing’s Van Helsing is sorely lacking. Renown British actress Barbara Shelley makes for a fine female lead and then vampiress, but, it is Suzan Farmer’s Diane who is the real heroine of the film, though pretty much just a damsel in distress. Francis Matthews is a fine hero as Diane’s husband Charles who confronts Dracula to save his wife. Rounding out, Charles Tingwell is the ill-fated Alan Kent and gives his character some life while he is onscreen and Thorley Walters gives an off-beat performances as the disturbed Ludwig, a Renfield-like character who has encountered Dracula before and may still be in his thrall.

The film may not equal Horror of Dracula but, is still full of charm and fairly entertaining. It does make a bit of a mistake taking so long for Dracula to finally show up and then giving him nothing to say, but, Lee makes him intimidating despite minimal screen time and being reduced to more of a simple monster. It’s not the worst of the series and a lot of these flaws would be fixed in the following entry, Dracula Has Risen From The Grave!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 fangs.

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JUNE 19-21

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office!

1. “Jurassic World” $102 Million

2. “Inside Out” $91 Million

3. “Spy” $10.5 Million

4. “San Andreas” $8.24 Million

5. “Dope” $6 Million

6. “Insidious: Chapter 3” $4.1 Million

7. “Pitch Perfect 2” $3.3 Million

8. “Mad Max: Fury Road” $2.8 Million

9. “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” $2.7 Million

10. “Tomorrowland” $2 Million

source: Box Office Mojo

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