BOOK REVIEW: PRESSURE by BRIAN KEENE

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PRESSURE by BRIAN KEENE

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I know this is the Movie Madhouse, but I did like this book and Keene’s stuff would make good flicks!

I am a big fan of Brian Keene and this is a bit of a departure with him. Most of his books are supernaturally themed and this one is more of a tale of science gone awry and the conspiracy to cover it up. Tale has a traumatic sea event being investigated off the coast of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Diver Carrie Anderson discovers the cause is some massive mutant sea creature and now must find a way to stop it, while those responsible want her stopped even more. 

The book is told in two parts, the first being about the giant mutation and the second about a sinister bio-corporation’s efforts to cover up their part in it and eliminate any witnesses…including Miss Anderson. The first half is a lot more fun as a monster tale in the Jaws/ John Carpenter’s The Thing vein, as the creature is made up of parts of various sea life. The second part becomes a rather routine conspiracy tale dealing with those responsible for the monsters trying to silence anyone who knows about them. It’s simply very generic X-Files stuff and while still entertaining, it’s nowhere near as fun as the first half. It also ends with an epilogue implying that a major plot point that everyone knew about, was just ignored and left to give the book a possibility of a sequel. Keene is usually more clever than that. Overall it’s a fast read and a fun book, but could have been a lot more involving if it had stayed focused on the critters instead of switching gears to a routine conspiracy thriller with some questionable science concerning those creatures’ creation.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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THE EVIL DEAD and EVIL DEAD 2013: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

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THE EVIL DEAD and EVIL DEAD 2013: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! In order to properly compare these two films, I have to give DETAILED SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead or Fede Alvarez’s  Evil Dead remake, there are MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW for each film. You have been warned!

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After seeing  Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe recently, it made me go back and revisit his Evil Dead remake. Since I haven’t done a Comparison In Horror in a while, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to compare Raimi’s classic with Alvarez’s update…

(Click on the highlighted movie titles to go to the full length reviews and on the photos to enlarge them!)

THE STORY

Sam Raimi’s classic The Evil Dead has five young people going up to a secluded cabin in the woods for a weekend of partying and fun. When they get to the rundown cabin, they find an old book and a tape recording in the creepy cellar that claims it is the book of the dead and wrapped in human flesh. Thinking it’s all a joke, they play the recording, which includes someone reading from the book and find out the hard way that it’s all too real, as they unleash horror beyond their imaginations.

Fede Alvarez’s remake has five youths going up to a old family cabin that hasn’t been visited in years. They are there as an intervention for one of their number, who is addicted to heroin. When they get to the rundown cabin they discover some spooky goings on have occurred there and find an old book in the creepy cellar that claims it is the book of the dead. Despite being wrapped in plastic and barbed wire and filled with warnings to not read from it, one curious person does and unleashes horror beyond their imaginations.

There are some differences in plot details, but basically both flicks have a cabin with five unsuspecting youths, two of whom are brother and sister, being attacked and possessed by an ancient evil conjured from reading an ominous book that has been left there by others.

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THE ANTAGONISTS

Both flicks basically have the same antagonists. They are ancient evil spirits known as Deadites that are unleashed when either the book is read from directly, or recorded reading from the book is played back. They want the souls of all those in the cabin and possess and torment the occupants claiming them one by one. There are slight differences, too. The methods in which they can be stopped are slightly varied. The original 1981 film requires the possessed victim be totally dismembered to render them harmless, while the new film offers a variety of demises such as burning, boiling water…and the old favorite, bodily dismemberment. Their origins are also slightly different as well. The Deadites in the original seem to hail from somewhere around ancient Sumaria, while the Deadites from the 2013 remake seem connected more directly to Satanism or The Devil and claiming a certain amount of souls will unleash their master, The Dark One.

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HEROES and HEROINES

Here there is a vast difference in our leads. The 1981 version has ill-fated Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell). In Raimi’s classic, the now iconic Ash is a mild mannered fellow and a little on the cowardly side, leaving it up to alpha male Scott (Richard DeManicor) to hack up his possessed sister Cheryl and generally do the hero stuff till the Deadites get him, too. This leaves Ash all alone to man-up and battle the Deadites. It’s not till the sequels that he starts to take on the mantle of a hero, although an arrogant and bumbling one.

In the 2013 version, Alvarez wisely chose not to try to recast such an iconic character and left Ash out of things altogether. Instead, we get siblings David (Shiloh Fernandez) and his heroin addicted sister Mia (Jane Levy). When Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) reads from the book and unleashes the Deadites, vulnerable Mia is the first possessed and David steps up into hero mode trying to battle the evil and somehow save his little sister. In it’s last act this update throws us a twist by having Mia freed of her possession, by some clever thinking by David and then having her brother killed. Mia then takes vengeful center stage against the dark ones, becoming the sole surviving heroine when she started out the film as possessed and villainous.

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THE SETTINGS

Here, settings are exactly the same. Obviously there are differences due to different creative talent, actual location and budget, but both take place in old cabins deep in the North American woods. Raimi filmed much of his epic in Tennessee and the remake filmed on locations in New Zealand.

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THE OPENING SCENES

Both movies have opening scenes that really establish the mood and tone. The original The Evil Dead opens with the camera racing through the woods with some ominous growling heard as it reaches the car carrying our main protagonists. It is quick and to the point, but sets the tone right away that something bad is going to happen to our five unsuspecting travelers.

Alvarez’s Evil Dead opens with a pretty young girl being chased by some rednecks in the woods and being violently captured. She finds herself tied to a post in an old cellar and only after some dialog with her captors, do we realize that these are her family and she is actually a possessed Deadite who curses her father as he sets his own daughter on fire. It is a shocking beginning that certainly sets the tone very well for what is in store for the remake’s group of young folk.

Both openings are perfect for setting us up for what is to come, starting us off with an atmosphere of fear and foreboding. Raimi’s may be simpler, but Alvarez’s is no less effective and a little more shocking.

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THE ENDINGS

In terms of their climaxes, both films have endings that resonate.

The Evil Dead ends with Ash having barely escaped a vicious assault from his possessed friends by burning the book in the fireplace resulting in a roller coaster bloodbath of gore. As the sun starts to rise, he limps out the door only to have the camera race towards him growling like in the opening and coming right at his face as Ash utters  a horrible scream. The film cuts to black and ends with the credits rolling; Ash apparently not as triumphant as he believed. It is ferociously quick and very effective, a last jolt before you leave the theater.

Evil Dead 2013 has Mia, free of Deadite possession, battling the Dark One in a rainstorm of blood with a chainsaw…a battle that costs her a hand. She cleaves the evil doppelgänger of herself in half and slowly walks off holding her bloody stump as the blood rain abates and the sun rises. The last shot is of the book sitting on the ground, as the cabin burns and then suddenly slamming shut as to indicate the evil has not been completely defeated. It is not quite as effective as the original’s, but still works very well.

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MISC.

There are other similarities and differences. The original was shot at a cost of around $400,000 dollars,  while it’s remake benefited from a budget of around $17 Million. Sam Raimi’s classic has some stunningly original camera work concocted on a shoestring budget by Raimi and cinematographer Tim Philo, while Alvarez’s re-imagining has some sumptuous and spooky visuals captured by Aaron Morton.

Also adding atmosphere for both films are their scores. The Evil Dead has a truly unsettling score featuring frantic strings mixed with disturbing growls and sounds concocted by Joseph LoDuca. Evil Dead 2013 has an equally unnerving score also featuring some glaring sounds and sound FX by Roque Baños. Both are really good at setting mood and atmosphere.

Raimi’s masterpiece is infamous for it’s ‘tree rape’ sequence featuring Ash’s sister Cheryl and while Alvarez pays homage to it with Mia, it’s not nearly as shocking as what Raimi did in 1981 and wasn’t trying to be. He also pays homage to Ash’s hand loss in Evil Dead II with Mia losing a hand in her blood soaked battle with the Dark One.

The 1981 film does have a bit of a twisted sense of humor, while the 2013 remake seems to take itself very seriously, though not too seriously that we don’t have a blood spattered good time.

Speaking of blood…Raimi’s flick is filled with some wildly inventive low budget gore FX, mixing prosthetics with stop motion animation and tons of blood. It was released unrated. Alvarez’s flick is extremely violent and gory, but does so within the restraint of it’s R rating…though it does push the boundaries of that quite a bit. Raimi’s inventiveness with his gore has a charm that the top of the line FX of the remake just don’t have, despite being excellently executed by the FX team and quite effective in their own right.

As with all Raimi associated flicks, Raimi’s 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 appears in both Evil Deads with it being Ash’s car in the original and a junked heap at the back of the cabin in the remake.

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So, we have one flick that is a horror masterpiece and one of the greatest horror flicks of all time and a remake which is a solidly effective horror and while it pays tribute to the original quite well, also has it’s own identity, too. Both films have basically the same plot, but differ when it comes to it’s characters and climaxes. Original director Sam Raimi went on to an illustrious career in movies, including making two classic sequels (see our reviews for Evil Dead II HERE and Army Of Darkness HERE) and three Spider-Man films, while Fede Alvarez is off to a good start with Evil Dead 2013 and Don’t Breathe.

In conclusion, the remake may not be on the same level as the classic masterpiece original, but it is a scary and bloody good time that can stand on it’s own and also makes a nice companion piece to the Ash and Evil Dead saga…which includes the new series (yup, review for that HERE!).

-MonsterZero NJ

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES AUG 26-28

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

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

1. “Don’t Breathe” $26.1 Million

2. “Suicide Squad” $12.1 Million

3. “Kubo and the Two Strings” $7.9 Million

4. “Sausage Party” $7.6 Million

5. “Mechanic: Resurrection” $7.5 Million

6. “Pete’s Dragon” $7.28 Million

7. “War Dogs” $7.25 Million

8. “Bad Moms” $5.7 Million

9. “Jason Bourne” $5.2 Million

10. “Ben Hur” $4.5 Million

source: Box Office Mojo

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DON’T BREATHE (2016)

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DON’T BREATHE (2016)

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

Don’t Breathe is an intense and very entertaining thriller that turns the home invasion flick on it’s head and proves writer/director Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead remake) is the real deal. The story takes place in a rundown suburb of Detroit where house thieves Rocky (Evil Dead’s Jane Levy), Money (It Follows‘ Daniel Zovatto) and Alex (Goosebumps’ Dylan Minnette) hear of a big score. There is an almost deserted street with only one house still occupied, the home of a blind war veteran (Stephen Lang) who supposedly was given a large cash settlement by the family of a rich girl who ran over and killed his daughter. Thinking it easy money, the three break into the man’s home one night. But the man turns out to be far more dangerous than they realize and soon has them trapped inside his house with the intent they never leave.

Co-written with his Evil Dead co-scribe Rodo Sayagues, Alvarez crafts a very suspenseful and intense game of cat and mouse inside the Detroit house that gets started quickly and never gives up till it’s unsettling last moments. Alvarez gives us a claustrophobic and isolated setting by placing the house on a deserted block and making great use of the desolated Detroit setting to give it atmosphere. He then has his ex-soldier seal our three thieves inside, where he knows the layout and they…and we…don’t. Alvarez also uses the character’s blindness to set up nerve-wracking moments, as our thieves try to quietly elude him and then he clever turns off the power to turn the odds in his favor. There are also some moments of brutal violence that really punctuate the intensity of the proceedings, as the director plays with the home invasion formula by turning our intended victim into the monster and the invaders into the victims. This works well due to the way his characters are written. While Money is basically a street thug, Alex has a conscience and a heart, which keeps him likable and Levy’s Rocky is only stealing to get enough money to take her little sister out of Detroit and away from her alcoholic mother. This makes them sympathetic, despite their criminal activity, yet Alvarez still puts them through the ringer for them to truly earn our empathy. If the brutal pursuit through the three floors of the old house isn’t enough, Alvarez has a late reveal that adds a really disturbing angle to a simple theft gone awry story…one that will have you squirming as much as Levy’s Rocky was…and turns the blind soldier into a true fiend. And it works very well. As with Evil DeadAlvarez accents his story with a great visual eye. His settings and shots are captured stylishly by the lens of Pedro Luque and Evil Dead composer Roque Baños returns for an atmospheric score. It all adds up to a suspenseful, intense and very atmospheric thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and squirming in it too!

Alvarez has assembled a small but very effective cast for his sophomore film for Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures. Evil Dead leading lady Jane Levy is very strong as the street smart Rocky. She is convincing in that she is stealing only out of love for her little sister and she moves from thief to anti-hero to heroine very well. Her Rocky is really put through Hell, just as her Mia was in the 2013 horror remake and she really provides us again with a strong character to root for, even if she, like Mia, isn’t the sweet girl next door. Levy has a unique way of combining an intensity with a sensitivity that deserves more spotlight roles. Daniel Zovatto, who was the kindly Greg in It Follows, plays basically a street thug and does play him well. He has his charisma, but is not a good guy and the one we least feel sorry for when the poop hits the fan. Dylan Minnette’s Alex seems almost too nice to be part of this group, but it is made known he crushes on Rocky and is betraying his security company father most likely to be close to her. It succeeds in keeping him likable and he proves once again he is a charming actor with an appealing screen persona. This would not work if our blind ex-soldier, whose name is never given, wasn’t convincing as a monster and Stephen Lang once again is a strong bad guy. He is sympathetic at first, then let’s us know that this man is still lethally dangerous, even with his war injury handicap and then becomes a full blown fiend once the movie progresses. His soldier is filled with menace and threat and once we get the full picture, any feelings that this guy is just protecting what’s his, go out the window and it works thanks to an intense performance from a skilled actor.

I really liked this movie and it proves to me Fede Alvarez is a filmmaker to keep a close eye on. I really enjoyed his remake of Sam Raimi’s horror classic and certainly enjoyed the results now of a film entirely his own. This is an intense, brutally violent and sometimes twisted thriller that turns a home invasion into a house of horrors with a strong cast to back up the director’s vision and story. A solid thriller and one of the few films to live up to early word in the summer of 2016 movie season.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 turkey basters…you’ll have to see the movie!

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BARE BONES: BORN and COMPLIANCE

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BORN (2007)

Unintentionally hilarious horror stars Alison Brie (Sleeping WIth Other People) as a virginal young woman who is impregnated by a demon at her mother’s funeral…don’t ask. Now as she falls under her unborn child’s evil influence, she goes on a killing spree to supply six victims for it’s birthing ritual.

Low budget horror is as stupid as it sounds and as filled with clichés as you’d expect and gets more and more ridiculous as it goes on. Star Brie recites some side split-tingly awful dialog and goes completely over the top in scenes that are meant to be shocking and scary, but provide rib-tickling laughs instead. The sex scene is worth watching this for alone… you’ll laugh till you cry…as is the scene where her water breaks and it looks like green dishwashing liquid! And the whole thing is meant to be serious! Epic fail for them!…Win, win for us!

Also starring Denise Crosby and genre favorite Kane Hodder who actually looks embarrassed to be in this. Crack open your favorite brew and enjoy this schlock-fest.

Oh…and for those watching for the charming Alison Brie, there’s good and bad news…the Community star does get to kiss another girl and talk hilariously dirty during a sex scene, but sadly uses an obvious body double for the brief nude scenes. Below rating is purely for ‘so bad it’s good’ entertainment value.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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COMPLIANCE (2012)

A disturbing thriller based on supposedly true events about a mean spirited prank pulled on the employees of a fast food restaurant. A caller (Pat Healy), claiming to be a police officer, tells manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) that one of her employees, Becky (Dreama Walker) has committed a theft and needs to be searched and detained. The caller asks Sandra and her staff to do increasingly humiliating things to Becky all under the guise that it is part of a criminal investigation and none of them seem to have the courage to question the increasingly depraved acts until it’s too late.

Compliance is a tough movie to sit through and it would be hard to believe that people could be stupid enough to go along with such a horrible prank for as long as they did, except for the fact that it is all taken from a case in 2004 at a Mc Donald’s in Fort Washington, Kentucky. Craig Zobel writes and directs the story fairly straightforward and he gets good performances out of his cast and the result is a disturbing movie that is tough to sit through…even more so, because it actually happened. Not a great film. The aftermath seems rushed after the film took it’s time portraying the events, but it is still effective and fairly well made.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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“ASH VS. EVIL DEAD” SEASON 2 PROMO POSTERS!

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Starz’s Ash vs. Evil Dead series (click HERE for our season 1 review!) is set to return soon for a second season. The adventures of Ash, Pablo and sexy Kelly will continue on 10/2/16 as Ash returns to his hometown in Michigan to battle the Deadites!

For now, here’s some great character posters, including new cast members Lee Majors as Ash’s dad Brock, Ted Raimi as old friend Ted Kaminski, Michelle Hurd as old flame Linda and Joel Tobeck as new bad guy “Baal”, to enjoy while we wait!

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Sources: Dread Central, Starz

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SUBSPECIES (1991)

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SUBSPECIES (1991)

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

As it was the birthday of the late, great Angus Scrimm recently, I decided to revisit this flick in which he stars in a small role as Vampire King Vladislav. This is one of Charles Band’s Full Moon direct to video productions and actually has a bit of a cult following, spawning three sequels and a spin-off. This first film tells of the approaching of the Festival of Prejmer in which the locals celebrate a time when, as they believe, vampires saved them from the invading Turkish army. The Vampire King (Scrimm) is going to use it to pass his crown and the powerful relic, the Bloodstone, onto his younger son Stefan (Michael Watson). His evil eldest son Radu (Anders Hove) is not happy about this and returns from his banishment to murder his father and take the powerful Bloodstone for himself. Now Stefan must find a way to stop him and help two American college students (Laura Tate and Michelle McBride) and their local friend (Irina Movila), who have been targeted by his bloodthirsty brother.

Flick is an OK vampire yarn elevated by some nice Romanian locations where it was actually filmed. The plot, as per Band and Jackson Barr’s script, plays it safe and doesn’t stray too far from the traditional vampire story. It has it’s fiend pursuing innocents and turning some into his own kind and a Van Helsing  type character, which here is represented in the form of local man Karl (Ivan J. Rado). There is a romance between Stefan and Michelle (Laura Tate) that seems added to satisfy the Anne Rice crowd, but otherwise it’s very old-fashioned. The film does have some atmosphere, though even at only 80 minutes director Ted Nicolaou moves things at a very moderate pace. There is the expected bloodshed and some nudity to appease the intended target audience and some brief stop motion animation from the legendary David Allen, in the portrayal of Radu’s diminutive demon-like minions. Being direct to video, the cinematography is sadly TV-like and the film’s sumptuous Romania locales deserved better. Aside from the always delightful Scrimm and Anders Hove giving his raspy voiced Radu some menace, the cast is fairly wooden all across the board. There is also a bit of a physical resemblance between Watson and Tate, including similar hairdos, that adds an uncomfortableness to their vampire/human romance. Too bad producer Charles Band couldn’t have given this flick a little more effort on a production and creative level, as it had potential to be something with a bit more weight had it not been targeted for direct to video sales.

Not a great movie by any lengths, but it has it’s entertainment value and even filmed unflatteringly, the Romanian locations are atmospheric. The vampire tropes are all paraded out for fans and our lead fiend is memorable and deserved a better film to be in. Angus Scrimm adds class to his pre-credits role as the Vampire King and might have been even more impressive if not for that silly wig they make him wear. Worth a look, but don’t expect too much. Actress Denise Duff would replace Tate as Michelle for the next three flicks.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 fangs.

dracula_satanic rites rating

 

 

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES AUG 19-21

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

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

1. “Suicide Squad” $20.7 Million

2. “Sausage Party” $15.3 Million

3. “War Dogs” $14.3 Million

4. “Kubo and the Two Strings” $12.6 Million

5. “Ben Hur” $11.4 Million

6. “Pete’s Dragon” $11.3 Million

7. “Bad Moms” $8 Million

8. “Jason Bourne” $7.9 Million

9. “The Secret Life Of Pets” $5.7 Million

10. “Florence Foster Jenkins” $4.3 Million

 

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANGUS SCRIMM!

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Today marks the birthday of horror film legend Angus Scrimm! Renown to fans worldwide as Phantasm‘s Tall Man, he has terrified and delighted us with his legendary performances as one of horror’s greatest icons for over three decades with a 5th Phantasm film on the way!

MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse celebrates the legacy of Angus Scrimm and his contribution to horror and fantasy cinema on this, his birthday!

For a review of the coinciding Angus Scrimm film, just click on the poster

Phantasm Phantasm_2

phantasm-3 phantasm 4

john dies at the end lost empire

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: CONAN THE BARBARIAN and 13 ASSASSINS

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CONAN THE BARBARIAN (2011)

The original Conan flick has a legendary aura and is now fondly remembered as a classic. This Conan is no classic, but to be honest, is actually an entertaining and action packed popcorn flick that is better than the trailers led one to believe. Like Arnie’s, this Conan seeks revenge against the man who killed his father, the power hungry tyrant, Khalar Zym, who seeks to enslave all. On his way to avenge himself, he meets a woman, Tamara, who is key to the villain’s plan. Sure, it’s easy to predict there will be some sex and plenty of bloodshed before the credits roll, but the ferocity of the action does make up for the predictability and Momoa is solid enough as Conan, though obviously lacking in Arnie’s larger then life persona. Zym is played effectively by Steven Lang along with Rachel Nichols as the spunky and pretty heroine/love interest, Tamara. She and Momoa seem to have some chemistry together which helps as their relationship is given very little time between beheadings. Rose McGowan is creepy as Lang’s sorceress daughter and the always good Ron Perlman cuts a strong profile as Conan’s father. Director Marcus Nispel moves everything along at a brisk pace, stages the action well and makes it all look good. The production and FX are solid. The make-up is good as is the gallons of blood spilled. Tyler Bates score doesn’t convey the majesty of Basil Poledouris’ brilliant soundtrack for the 1982 flick, but is fine if not generic.

All in all, Conan is a fun summer flick that delivers a good time as long as you know not to expect another movie the likes of Millius’ classic. It never gives you that ‘making of a legend’ feeling we got while watching that flick, but it passed the time quickly and was never boring. Fun if not forgettable.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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13 ASSASSINS (2001)

Takashi Miike’s films can be overbearing and extremely graphic at times, such as the horrifying Audition, but with 13 Assassins he uses some nice restraint and falls back on a more traditional filmmaking style to tell this old fashioned story of a band of few going against a much larger foe. As with films like Dirty Dozen and Seven Samurai, Miike takes his time to build his plot and gather his band of assassins before setting them loose. Their target is the Shogun’s ruthless and cruel half brother who must be stopped from ever reaching the throne and replaced with a more responsible heir…if they can get past the army that guards him. The showdown in a remote village with the 13 going against over 200 is a masterful piece of filmmaking and maybe some of the finest work Miike has done in his eclectic career, as well as, one of the best action sequences of it’s kind to hit film in a long time. A great movie.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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