FAREWELL AND R.I.P. ROWDY RODDY PIPER!

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Roderick “Roddy” George Toombs 1954-2015

Farewell and RIP to Roderick George Toombs known to the professional wrestling and film worlds as “Rowdy Roddy Piper”. Piper was already a legend in professional wrestling as one of the 80s top heels with his battles against Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka and Hulk Hogan. He then made an equal splash in the B-movie world with roles in Hell Comes To FrogTown and John Carpenter’s cult classic They Live. “Hot Rod” passed away today from cardiac arrest and will be missed by wrestling and movie fans alike, all over the world.

-MonsterZero NJ

Sources: internet

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COOL STUFF: WYRMWOOD on BLU-RAY

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WYRMWOOD (2014) Blu-Ray

Wyrmwood is a bloody blast of a fun time (see full review here) and has arrived on blu-ray from the awesome folks at Scream Factory as part of their partnership with IFC Midnight…a deal I couldn’t be happier about.

The picture is absolutely gorgeous and brings Tim Nagel’s digital cinematography to vibrant life. The 1080P HD aspect ratio of 1.78:1 has been preserved, as has the ‘sumptuous-on-a-small-budget’ visual style of director Kiah Roache-Turner. The sound is in 7.1 DTS (though the packaging mistakenly says 5.1,  the disc itself is 7.1) and there is an alternate 2.0 track for those without the home theater set-up…and if you don’t have a 7.1 set-up, I advise you use the 2.0 instead. The sound is much more evenly mixed for playback on simple stereo speakers. Now on to the extras which make this disc even more fun…and worth having!

There is audio commentary from director Kiah Roache-Turner and co-writer and brother Tristan and the two seem like very laid-back fellows and their insights into the three year making of the film is easy-going and informative. There is a really fun ‘making of’ feature called “The Wyrmdiaries” that chronicles the long journey to make this flick and it looks like there was a a real fun time on set, despite all the hard work. It’s made by the Roache-Turner Brothers themselves and the on-set footage and cast and crew interviews show a set filled with fun-loving, good-natured people having a great time together. It is a healthy 50 minutes and is as much of a blast of fun as the film itself and gives you a nice inside look at guerrilla filmmaking in action, Down Under style. There is the 7 minute teaser scene used to garner interest for the planned film and it’s fun to see where the flick began. There are also two videos made to entice crowd-funding…one of those featuring the filmmaking brothers as zombies. Add to that, almost 20 minutes of deleted scenes. As, the film moves like a rocket, it was easy to see why these were jettisoned but, they are fun to see, nonetheless. Rounding out the bonus materials are director storyboards and the theatrical trailer for the finished film. A healthy amount of extra material for a modestly priced disc.

I really enjoyed this movie and it will appear on my “best of” list for 2015. The disc not only beautifully transfers the digital film but, gives us a some really fun and insightful extras that take us behind the scenes with two fun guys with a passion for filmmaking. For a blu-ray disc priced around 12.99 at most retail outlets, it’s definitely worth having if you are a fan of the film or zombie/Road Warrior-ish movies like it.

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972)

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DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972)

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

Hammer Films tried to freshen up the Dracula series and did so by bringing The Count (Christopher Lee) to modern day London and brought back Peter Cushing as Van Helsing! They also brought in a new writer and director and the film appears to have no continuity with the other previous films in the series.

The story opens in 1872 with a stage coach hurtling through the forest with Dracula and Van Helsing battling on and about it. The coach crashes and both the good doctor and the fiendish vampire die in one final battle. A disciple (Christopher Neame) of Dracula’s takes his remains and buries them outside the cemetery that now holds the body of Van Helsing. We cut to 1972 London were a group of thrill seeking, young hipsters, including Jessica Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham), are planning a dark ritual at a de-sanctified, abandoned church. Their leader Johnny (also Christopher Neame) is actually a decedent of that Dracula disciple from the prologue and the black mass he holds, raises Count Dracula from his grave to start feeding on the members of the group. Now it’s up to Jessica’s grandfather, Lorrimer Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), to take up his ancestor’s cause and send Dracula back to Hell where he belongs!

I understand why purists of the series might consider this one a low point for bringing Dracula to the 70s and surrounding him with swinging hipsters and funky music, but, I think it’s good fun. Don Houghton wrote the script and while it may not be the strongest of stories, it is refreshing to have a different setting and Cushing back as Dracula’s arch-rival. It also gives a fairly good reason for Dracula’s return as Johnny resurrects him to gain immortality. Alan Gibson directs fairly by-the-numbers but, imbues the film with so much of the 70s youth culture of the time with it’s music and fashions that, if nothing else, it gives the film a heavy 70s nostalgia to make it a treat. Sadly, the film also gives Dracula limited screen time focusing on Van Helsing, but, as Cushing has been away from the series since 1960’s Lee-less Brides Of Dracula, we’ll allow it. There is some blood spattered, but, after Scars Of Dracula’s R rating caused distribution problems, they went back to PG and it is limited and there is no nudity. The film has a fairly moderate pace but, there is a lot of action and there is some nice cinematography from Dick Bush and a jazzy 70s score by Mike Vickers, who replaced series regular James Bernard. A fun entry with a very 70s vibe and while Dracula’s screen time is limited, there are two nice confrontations with arch-nemesis Van Helsing bookending the film.

A good cast as usual. Again, Lee is in top form giving Dracula a sense of menace despite limited screen time. A testament to his work ethic that he performed so well, a role he came to hate. Cushing is as charming as ever and he provides a welcome boost to the film and gives his performance a nice energy and sincerity as the occult expert and ancestor of the legendary Lawrence Van Helsing. Stephanie Beacham’s Jessica Van Helsing is pretty and a bit more independent than some of the series’ ladies but, ends up being a damsel anyway. Christopher Neame seems to be channeling Malcolm McDowell’s Alex here, to a good degree, but, it works in context to the character and setting. Michael Coles is functional but, a bit by-the-numbers as Inspector Murray, a cop investigating the ‘mysterious’ deaths. Last, but not least, we get hot British bird Caroline Munro as an unfortunate member of the hipster group and future Dracula snack.

So, while many feel this was the series’ low point, I respectfully disagree. I really love the 70s vibe and despite a minimal appearance by The Count, it is evened out a bit by the return of Cushing as Van Helsing. The film is loaded with 70s nostalgia, there are some very effective set pieces and is definitely enough fun to make it an entertaining watch. Lee and Cushing would return one more time to battle it out in the follow-up, The Satanic Rites Of Dracula.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 fangs.

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Even surrounded by Dracula A.D. 1972‘s bevy of Hammer beauties, Lee can’t help express how tired he is of all this.

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BARE BONES: NOTHING LEFT TO FEAR and CAMP DREAD

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NOTHING LEFT TO FEAR (2013)

Horror flick has a very familiar story though, is competently made. A pastor (James Tupper) uproots his family from the city to take over a parish in a small rural farm town…one that, of course, has a dark secret. Obviously, Pastor Dan and family have been lured there for something other than singing Kumbaya. Film is most notable for being co-produced by rocker Slash and is written by Jonathan W.C. Mills and directed by Anthony Leonardi III. As such, it is a moderately entertaining thriller with no big scares and the usually shaky head CGI phantoms. One glaring plot hole really hurts and that is if the townies need to shut the gates of Hell, then why do they open them in the first place which we clearly witness them do? Also stars genre vet Clancy Brown, Anne Heche, and cuties Rebekah Brandes (Midnight Movie) and Jennifer Stone. A time waster but, you could do worse.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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CAMP DREAD (2014)

Awful movie has a washed-up, 80s horror filmmaker (Eric Roberts) planing to make a comeback by staging a horror themed reality show at a summer camp. Obviously, when the troubled young twenty somethings, that are the contestants, are eliminated, they are eliminated for real…and quite gruesomely. As written and Directed by Harrison Smith, this is a tedious and dull affair that makes 90+ minutes feel like three hours. There is no suspense, scares or surprises and the gore is phony looking, as well. Also stars Sleepaway Camp alumni Felissa Rose, Scream queen Danielle Harris…who only appears in two scenes…and if it wasn’t for some welcome eye candy from the shapely Montana Marks, this would have been a complete waste of time.

1 and 1-2 star rating

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 -MonsterZero NJ
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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: POLTERGEIST (2015)

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POLTERGEIST (2015)

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

The 1982 Poltergeist is a classic and even if it comes off as a bit cheesy, over three decades later, it’s still a roller coaster ride of fun. Gil Kenan’s remake, on the other hand, is a completely by-the-numbers, generic haunted house flick that reminds one more of the awful The Apparition than the Spielberg produced, Tobe Hooper directed fright flick.

Story is basically the same, with couple Eric and Amy Bowen (Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt) moving with their three children, teen Kendra (Saxon Sharbino), young Griffin (Kyle Catlett) and little Madison (Kennedi Clements), into a housing development…built over a former cemetery, of course…and soon starting to experiencing paranormal activity. The activity seems to be targeting the two youngest, with Maddie in particular being the focus. Soon the little girl is abducted into a spirit realm and a paranormal crew, headed by famous TV ghost hunter Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris), arrive to try and save Maddie and rid the house of it’s angry specters.

Completely unnecessary remake is unimaginatively written by David Lindsay-Abaire and directed flatly by Gil Kenan, who brings nothing new or special to the tale. There are a few scant effective moments but, that is only when the film deviates slightly or tries to add a new wrinkle, like sending a toy drone, equipped with a camera, into the spirit realm. The film rarely tries anything new, though and basically follows the original story and very blandly at that. Kenan brings none of the fun that he gave his animated Monster House and writer Lindsay-Abaire rarely strays from the path set by the original movie. The flick also gives us very little to be scared of and doesn’t even try to match the original’s bombastic funhouse atmosphere. This flick is actually far more grounded and thus far less interesting and most of the time, it’s outright dull. The characters are all bland and not particularly endearing, like the slightly eccentric Freeling family were in the 1982 original. They also seem to accept the supernatural explanations far too easily to add any tension. If you are going to remake a classic like Poltergeist…and you really shouldn’t…then at least go somewhere new with it and really shake things up. People give Rob Zombie alot of flack for his Halloween remake but, at least he tried to go in a different direction with it. This is a mediocre at best retread with none of the energy and life that was given the original film by those behind the camera. The look of the film and it’s lack of any real vitality evoked the recent and epically terrible, The Apparition far more than the beloved 1982 classic.

Despite the presence of vets like Rockwell and Harris the cast are also very bland and wooden. Rockwell seems like he is basically on a paycheck job and gives us none of the vitality he usually brings. Anyone could have played the part. Rosemarie DeWitt is equally bland and brings none of the fire Jobeth Williams had in the original. Sharbino is pretty but, a typical bratty teenager and Kennedi Clements is cute as Maddie but, just nowhere near as sympathetic or memorable as Heather O’Rourke. Only Young Kyle Catlett gives his role a little vibrance as Griffin, as does Jared Harris as the TV paranormal expert…but, still, Zelda Rubenstein he’s is not.

Simply put, this is a boring and very generic remake whose few effective scenes come only when the film finally tries something new or deviates from the original story…mostly in the last act. Even then, it is only slight and the new elements are minimal. It’s not quite a scene for scene remake but, almost and none of it has the over-the-top energy or fun of the classic original. There are also no real scares either, including the new version of the infamous clown doll and if you can’t make a clown doll scary, then what exactly is the point? Watch the original.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 epic fail scary clowns.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SHARK NIGHT (2011)

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SHARK NIGHT (2011)

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

Considering how ludicrous the Sharknado films get and how popular they are, I ‘m surprised how much flack this flick gets. Personally, I think it’s a fun B-movie that is sort of a Texas Chainsaw Massacre with sharks…sounds good to me!

Simple but, far fetched story has a group of attractive twenty-somethings going up to friend Sara’s (Sara Paxton from Innkeepers) family vacation house that is situated on a small island in the middle of a large saltwater Louisiana lake. Soon after their arrival, one of their number is attacked and mauled by what appears to be a shark. Now they find themselves stranded on the island and surrounded by predators, usually found prowling the oceans, with their numbers dwindling. The sharks aren’t the only threat though, as they aren’t there by accident and those responsible come out of hiding to make sure Sara and all her friends become fish food.

Sure, as written by Will Hayes and Jesse Studenberg and directed by David R. Ellis, this is a silly flick. The filmmakers know it, though and have a good time with it. They play it straight, not making a joke out the preposterous story of rednecks filling a lake with all species of sharks for their own amusement and personal gain. They let the story itself provide the entertainment..and it is fun, if you let it be. There are some cheesy CGI FX, offset with some nice animatronics, and a decent amount of blood and gore, though it could have gone a little more overboard with that and not hurt things, but, the film was released as PG-13 and the unrated DVD cut probably amounts to a routine R. Jaws was PG and that was quite effective, so, I’m fine with the amount of bloodshed as is. Like a slasher we get an attractive cast to fall victim to our hungry critters and there is enough nubile flesh in bathing suits to supply eye candy for everyone. It’s not quite over-the-top enough to be an exploitation flick, like Alexandre Aja’s Piranha remake, but, it certainly has more in common with that flick than a straight shark thriller like The Reef. Ellis does get some suspense and intense action out of the story and the villains are quite hate-able as bad guys should be…and there are a lot of sharks.

The human cast are all fine and mostly hired more for their looks and figures than their acting. Paxton is very sweet and likable as heroine/final girl Sara and can’t say she looks all that bad in her blue bikini which is predominately her only wardrobe. Same can be said of American Idol alumni turned actress Katharine McPhee as tattooed rebel chick Beth. Dustin Mulligan is a fine hero with his nerdy Nick and veteran Donal Logue is perfectly suitable as an alcoholic redneck sheriff. The rest of the supporting cast are equally suitable as either shark fodder or deranged hicks.

I like this flick. It’s no classic but, it is fun and there is enough blood and bikinis to pass the time. The combination of shark flick and deranged backwoods locals movie worked for me and there is enough action and suspense to entertain despite the silly story. Not a looney as Sharknado but, goofy enough in it’s own right and with a few beers thrown in, it’s a worthy watch on the couch.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 bikini-clad cuties.


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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JULY 24-26

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office!

1. “Ant-Man” $24.8 Million

2. “Pixels” $24 Million

3. “Minions” $22.1 Million

4. “Trainwreck” $17.3 Million

5. “Southpaw” $16.5 Million

6. “Paper Towns” $12.5 Million

7. “Inside Out” $7.35 Million

8. “Jurassic World” $6.9 Million

9. “Mr. Holmes” $2.8 Million

10. “Terminator: Genisys” $2.4 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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SATURDAY MATINEE: DINOSAURUS (1960)

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DINOSAURUS (1960)

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

With Jurassic World tearing up box office records, I revisited this childhood favorite and it still is a lot of fun and now with a load of added nostalgic charm. The FX may be cheezy by today’s standards but, they still work on a camp level and the fact that the director and actors approached this with just the right level of seriousness, really made its work.  This was my Jurassic World when I was a little kid and they played it on channel 9 quite frequently…

Story has an American contstruction crew on a remote Caribbean island digging underwater and discovering not only two dinosaurs perfectly preserved by the nearly freezing temperatures of an underwater river, but, a caveman (Greg Martell) as well. When during a fierce storm the carcasses are struck by lightening, we soon have a living breathing Brontosaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex and cave dude running around the island…we also said goodbye to science during the opening titles. Can heroic construction chief Bart (Ward Ramsey) save the day and get the girl (Kristina Hanson)?

Despite completely pissing on countless scientific facts and theories, this flick is a lot of charming fun as directed with complete seriousness by Irwin Yeaworth (The Blob) from a script by Dan. E. Weisburd and Jean Yeaworth. There are so many 60s movie clichés here that I completely bought into as a kid but, chuckle at now, such as the greedy local (Fred Engelberg), the precocious orphaned kid (Alan Roberts), the funny fat guy (Wayne Treadway) with the cute/insulting nickname and the quintessential bubble headed housewife type (Hanson) who runs from a prehistoric carnivore in heels 55 years before Bryce Dallas Howard. The dinosaurs are cheesy animatronics mixed with some B-level model animation and, of course, our two dinosaurs are going to fight…gotta have a dinosaur fight to make it complete. The film is fast moving and goes from one action set piece to another, after a brief character introduction to all the stereotypes of the era, then we are off for prehistoric fun leading up to our T-Rex vs. steam shovel finale. Scientifically it may be a lot of hooey but, as entertainment this kept me riveted as a kid and gives me plenty to chuckle about now. A lot of fun and has charm these new CGI epics never will.

The cast all perform this with a straight face. Ramsey is the perfect 60s hero with slicked back hair, puffed out chest and little tolerance for the antics of silly women. As such Kristina Hanson is the perfect 60s heroine…pretty, always looks like she came from a salon and is willing to swim in a blasting area to make sure her man gets his lunch. Engelberg is dastardly as the slimy/greedy villain who see dollars signs in our prehistoric guests and is the caretaker of the before mentioned precocious kid. Roberts makes for an annoying and possibly extremely stupid kid who sees no folly in playing house with a caveman…played with some over the top hi-jinx by Greg Martell, who also instills some nobility in the brute.

Not only a favorite from my childhood, but, a very charming, if not extremely silly, rubber monster movie. There is still loads of fun to be had and the cheesy critters add some nostalgic fun to all the 60s stereotypes that populate the film. A perfect Saturday Matinee of nostalgic dinosaur entertainment!

3 rubber critters.

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BARE BONES: PITCH PERFECT 2, WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS and SHARKNADO 3

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PITCH PERFECT 2 (2015)

The original Pitch Perfect was a pleasantly surprising diversion with a sassy, sarcastic attitude, likable characters and energetic musical numbers, as directed by Jason Moore. The sequel, again written by Kay Cannon, is now directed by star Elizabeth Banks in her directorial debut and it shows. The movie is just short of an outright mess. The story takes place three years later and The Barden Bellas have ruled collegiate A Cappella all this time, even getting to perform for The President. It’s at that performance that they fall from grace, as Fat Amy’s (Rebel Wilson) wardrobe malfunction causes them to become a national embarrassment and they are removed from collegiate competition. Somehow, though, they can restore their reputation and standing, if they can take the international title away from German uber group Das Sound Machine. Unfortunately, the film wastes two thirds on a bunch of subplots, none of which lead to the main story, such as Beca’s (Anna Kendrick) interning at a record label and a new recruit’s (Hailee Steinfeld) quest to sing her own material. It takes up most of the film with these subplots amounting to not much and it’s only in the last 15 minutes where we get back to the plot and then that’s over with two quick and unimpressive musical numbers…and to a predictable conclusion. Gone is the sassy wit of the first film, replaced by numerous and unfunny vulgar bits with the editing giving the film a very choppy and all-over-the-place feel. Beca and Jesse (Skylar Astin), whose romantic story was one of the cuter aspects of the last movie, are separated for almost the entire film and instead we get Fat Amy’s boring attempts to woo a reluctant Bumper Allen (Adam Devine). Add to that, an overall lack of energy and creativeness to the film’s music numbers and you have a very disappointing sequel to a very surprisingly charming movie.

2 star rating

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WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (2014)

Fun found footage comedy tells the story of a documentary being made about a group of vampire roommates, Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) and ancient Petyr (Ben Fransham), who live in a flat in Wellington, New Zealand. While they eagerly await the much revered event, The Unholy Masquerade, their world is thrown asunder when Petyr creates a new vampire, Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) who refuses to play by the rules. Not every joke or bit works in this New Zealand horror comedy but, there are some very funny moments and a lot of very clever uses of the time-honored vampire tropes. Co-written and co-directed by stars Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, the two have a lot of fun sending up all kinds of vampire films and Real World style reality shows by cleverly combining the two. They play it straight but, not without continually winking at the audience and while it never gets laugh-out-loud funny, there are plenty of giggles to be had, as well as, some amusingly gruesome moments, too. A fun vampire flick/reality show mash-up.

3 star rating

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SHARKNADO 3: OH HELL NO! (2015)

Director Anthony C. Ferrante and writer Thunder Levin return for a third entry in this delightfully off-the-charts series. This entry opens with Fin (Ian Ziering) receiving a medal of honor from and then saving the president as another sharknado hits Washington, D.C. Fin discovers there are more shark storms forming and they are poised to combine into a massive sharkicane. With friend Nova (Cassie Scerbo) returning to his side as a shark killing battle-babe, Fin races to Orlando, Florida to save his wife and daughter (Tara Reid, Ryan Newman) from the greatest Sharknado of them all! Third flick is filled with all the lunacy one might expect at this point with as many cameos from media personalities as there are sharks. The action is the usual over-the-top fun but, what makes this one standout a bit, is a scene stealing Cassie Scerbo as the waitress turned bad-ass shark killer, Nova. Not only is she decked out in black leather but, comes with an armored RV/”Bat Cave” from which she conducts her fish kills. The sassy Scerbo is a blast to watch and it’s time for the character to branch off in her own series of flicks, instead of remaining a sidekick. Overall, this is silly fun and maintains an exuberance for it’s ridiculousness. Also stars David Hasselhoff as Fin’s astronaut dad…can you say sharks in space?

3 star rating

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 -MonsterZero NJ
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