KONG: SKULL ISLAND GETS A NEW TRAILER!

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King Kong is Back! The new re-imagining of the classic character is scheduled to hit theaters on March 10th 2017 and this new trailer brings out the King and the critters! Flick stars Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman and Samuel L. Jackson!

-MonsterZero NJ

source: Youtube

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BARE BONES: THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR (2016)

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THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR (2016)

Follow-up to Snow White and the Huntsman, is both prequel and sequel. It starts out telling the origin of The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and takes a page out of Frozen’s playbook by also introducing The Ice Queen, Freya (Emily Blunt), who is sister to evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron). We then jump seven years later, now after the events of the last film, where The Huntsman is sent to find the whereabouts of the magic mirror. He not only finds it, but that his wife/lover, Sara (Jessica Chastain) is still alive and that The Ice Queen has not forgotten him. Worse still, she needs the mirror to revive her sister and take over the land.

Mundane attempt to cash in on Snow White and the Huntsman‘s unexpected success, is directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan from a messy script by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin and without star Kristin Stewart. Nicolas-Troyan has a decent enough visual eye, but fails to bring any energy or excitement to the proceedings. Chris Hemsworth does return and gives it his all and is surrounded by a trio of lovely co-stars in Blunt, Theron and Chastain. The added babe power doesn’t hide the fact that this is an incredibly routine fantasy that tries to add interest by luring in the Frozen crowd with Blunt’s icy Ice Queen. It’s not a bad film and is technically well made, it’s just that nothing stands out or makes it in anyway involving or unique. It’s a typical fantasy quest plot with the usual sword and axe play and offers nothing to make it stand out or memorable. At least Theron dialed it down a bit this time. Poor Chris Hemsworth can’t seem to find any success outside of playing Thor and it’s too bad, he is a charming and very likable leading man. Obviously, his three beautiful co-stars have all done better work too and probably did this for the paycheck. A passible evening on the couch, but nothing you’ll remember the next morning. Also stars a returning Nick Frost and narration by the incomparable Liam Neeson.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE MONSTER (2016)

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THE MONSTER (2016)

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

The Monster is the latest flick from writer/director Bryan Bertino who made the harrowing home invasion flick The Strangers and the more recent found footage horror Mockingbird. In his latest film, he tells the story of young Lizzy (Ella Ballentine) who is going on a road trip with her selfish, alcoholic mother, Kathy (Zoe Kazan), to visit her father…a trip her mom knows Lizzy is not planning to return from. The two have a tumultuous relationship at best and Kathy’s reliance on booze and jerk boyfriends isn’t helping. When traveling in the rain on a deserted backwoods road, they have an accident and help will take some time to arrive. The worst is yet to come, though, as there is something stalking the woods they are now stranded in and it is large, vicious and very hungry.

Bertino creates tension long before his mysterious creature arrives by giving a harsh view of what life is like for young Lizzy with her mom. Just from the opening scene we see how disappointed and angry the young girl is with her mother, who is just too wrapped up in her own life to make a better life for her daughter. As the two travel, we are treated to some grim flashbacks of Kathy’s drinking and the abusive nature of the type of men she brings home. Lizzy’s young life is not a pleasant one and Bertino doesn’t shy away from letting us know it. This works well in both creating tension before the monster shows up and adding weight to the bonding of mother and daughter against the vicious predator. Any help that comes to their rescue meets the beast as well, so, it’s up to Kathy and Lizzy to fend for themselves. This is where the film really clicked. The creature itself is just a catalyst for the mother and daughter to rediscover how much they mean to each other and Kathy especially to think beyond herself and to her daughter’s well being…and it works. The real monster here is a mother’s selfishness and the hurt and anger it has given her child and thus the story is about how extreme adversity finally opens both their eyes as to how much they care about…and need…each other. Not to say this is all drama, as there is plenty of monster action and there are some intense, suspenseful and bloody attack sequences throughout. There is also some decent gore and the creature is delightfully rendered with old fashioned prosthetics. Sure, there have been more realistic monsters on screen, but I’ll take a rubber suit over cheesy CGI any day and Bertino gives his creature presence and a bit of a mean streak. On a production level, the film seems modestly budgeted but looks good. There is also some atmospheric cinematography of the isolated backwoods setting by Julie Kirkwood and a fitting score by Tomandandy who also scored Girlhouse.

As for the cast, while there are some brief appearances by supporting characters, this is all Kazan and Ballentine’s show and both actresses bring it. Zoe Kazan gives a strong portrayal of a white trash mother who seems to legitimately love her daughter, but can’t get past her own indulgences to show her properly and be a good mom. She conveys the sadness that her daughter wants to leave her, yet also that selfish hesitation that keeps her from getting her act together to keep her. She succeeds in portraying a bad mom, but one that is not totally unlikable. We do feel a bit sorry for her. Fifteen year-old Ella Ballentine is a powerhouse as Lizzy. She is portraying a girl much younger and one that has had a harsh life with seeing her parents separate and then watching as her mother’s indulgences ruins both their lives. Some of the scenes she performs are harrowing…and that’s just the dramatic sequences that illustrate the sad nature of her relationship with her mom. When Lizzy goes one on one with our monster, she is pure dynamite! We sympathize and root for Lizzy completely. Great job by the young actress.

Despite some underwhelming advanced word, this film really clicked for me. Bryan Bertino gave it a strong dramatic backbone by creating two, three dimensional characters with a very intense, antagonistic and sad relationship between them. He then forces those characters to rediscover their need and importance to each other by putting them in a life and death struggle with a dangerous predator and in a situation where they have only each other to rely on. It may sound corny, but it worked completely. The director also gave us some intense and suspenseful monster sequences, for those who came here to see a monster movie and they were quite bloody. Add to that two very strong performances by it’s lead actresses and you have a movie that is powerful family drama and intense monster movie and very satisfying…and sometimes heartbreaking…as both.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 teddy bears that pick the worst time to sing.

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATE NOV 11-13

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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. “Doctor Strange” $43 Million

2. “Trolls” $35 Million

3. “Arrival” $24 Million

4. “Almost Christmas” $15.5 Million

5. “Hacksaw Ridge” $10.7 Million

6. “The Accountant” $4.5 Million

7. “Shut In” $3.7 Million

8. “Boo! A Madea Halloween” $3.5 Million

9. “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” $3.3 Million

10. “Inferno” $3.25 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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LEGENDARY ACTOR ROBERT VAUGHN PASSES AWAY AT 83!

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Yet more sad news for the entertainment industry as versatile actor Robert Vaughn has passed away at the age of 83. Vaughn came to fame playing T.V. super spy Napoleon Solo in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and went on to star in numerous classics like The Magnificent Seven, Bullitt with Steve McQueen and The Towering Inferno. He also graced the screen in more genre related fare such as Demon Seed, Starship Invasions, Roger Corman’s Battle Beyond The Stars and Superman III. He could play hero or villain and did so countless times during his lengthy career that lasted until his sad passing earlier today. Farewell and RIP Robert Vaughn!

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE SHELTER (2015)

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THE SHELTER (2015)

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

The Shelter is the feature directorial debut from John Fallon who is also known to horror fans as Arrow In The Head.com’s “The Arrow”. Fallon tells the story of Thomas (Michael Paré), who was a man that once had everything and is now a homeless drunk. As the film opens, we start to learn in flashbacks of him loosing his wife and unborn child which has left him the wreck he is. One night he happens upon an empty house and decides to spend the night in warmth and comfort. There is food and booze to sustain him. But the house may not be as empty as it seems and worse still…it may also have an agenda awaiting Thomas.

Fallon directs from his own script and there are many things he does well and gets right in his first feature. It is obviously a low budget effort, but Fallon has a nice visual eye and the film really looks good, especially in some of the more surreal dream sequences where we start to learn the details on what befell our subject. He peppers the film with religious symbolism and the first act is not only intriguing, but has some very spooky atmosphere and tension. Where Fallon stumbles somewhat is that as the film progresses and we learn more and more about what took the things that matter away from Thomas, the more it becomes predictable and we realize we’ve seen this kind of Twilight Zone-ish tale before…and therefor know what to expect. We know going in that Thomas is most likely his own worst enemy and right up to an ending we can see coming well before it does, we find out that we are exactly right. The film was far more interesting when we didn’t really know what was going on, as it goes somewhere not unexpected. It loses it’s grip the more it tells us and the more routine it becomes. The surreal narrative also starts to wear out it’s welcome and sadly we lose that nice tension that had us interested in the first act. Fallon definitely has some potential here and maybe with a bit more streamlined narrative…and we don’t fault him for trying something a bit different…he can tell a tale where he can keep that atmosphere he initially conjured so well and build on the nice visual style he displayed.

As for his star, Paré performs a little unevenly. There are some scenes where he brings some nice emotional depth to Thomas, such as a mournful graveyard sequence early on, then other scenes where he isn’t quite on target. He is a veteran actor and it’s hard to tell whether it was working with a new director or maybe not quite grasping the material, but his acting fluctuates. He isn’t as convincing in the sequences within the house as he was in the scenes leading up to that. Maybe he wasn’t quite as comfortable with the film’s surreal style.

So, maybe not a complete success for Fallon in his feature debut, but far from a failure. Fallon seems to have learned well from his influences in terms of his camera shots and using that camera to build some atmosphere and tension, but it’s keeping it that he needs to explore further. As a writer he is not afraid to do something a bit different, but in this particular tale, it is when his story became familiar is where it most stumbled. His lead actor was a bit uneven in his performance and unfortunately, the more we learned about his character, the more predictable the flick became. Whether you like The Shelter or not, it at least shows that John Fallon has his heart and passion in the right place and we could be seeing interesting things from Arrow In The Head’s namesake in the future.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 arrows.

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DAWN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIE: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

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DAWN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIE: 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 Dawn Of The Dead or Zombie, there are MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW for each film. You have been warned!

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Previously, I’ve compared David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows and John Carpenter’s Halloween (link here), the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Predator with the B-movie sci-fi/horror Without Warning (link here)and finally the classic Evil Dead and it’s 2013 remake (link here). Now I’d like to compare two classics that are related in an interesting way. In 1978, George A. Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead was unleashed upon the world and was called Zombi in Italy. It was a hit and in 1979, Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci made his own zombie epic, one that was sold as a sequel entitled Zombi 2. But Zombie, as it was titled here in the U.S. when released in 1980, is it’s own movie and a classic horror in it’s own right. Now decades later, let’s take a look at Romero’s horror classic and Fulci’s unofficial Italian “sequel” and see just how different…or alike…they actually are…

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

THE STORY

Romero’s film focuses on four characters (Ken Foree, David Emge, Gaylen Ross and Scott Reiniger) and their efforts to survive during a zombie outbreak in progress. Dawn is never clear whether this is a new outbreak, or if the outbreak started in the original Night Of The Living Dead has been ongoing for the last ten years and is starting to spiral out of control. Actually, we’re never sure the two films are even related as Dawn never references Night. Ken Foree’s Peter at one point announces that his voodoo practicing grandfather once said “When there is no more room in Hell, the dead with walk the Earth!”, but the cause of the zombie outbreak in the original film was radiation from a fallen satellite. Dawn never clarifies the actual cause as our characters barricade themselves inside a giant shopping mall. Romero’s tone is a bit satirical in this installment and there are moments of humor and satire throughout the film.

Zombie opens with the harbor police in NYC boarding a seemingly deserted craft. One of them is savaged by a zombie onboard who is subsequently shot and falls off the boat. The daughter (Tisa Farrow) of the boat’s owner, teams up with a reporter (Ian McCulloch) to find out what happened to her father. This leads the duo and another couple (Al Cliver and Auretta Gay) to the small Caribbean island of Matul, where they soon find, to their horror, that the dead are rising to eat the living. In Zombie, or Zombi 2, the cause of the outbreak is clearly voodoo as the drums beat continuously and characters warn that the local witch doctor has something to do with it. Aside from the dead rising, the villagers are all taking ill and dying, too…only to rise again with a hunger for flesh. Fulci makes no social commentary here and his tone is bleak and nightmarish with an absence of any humor to speak of.

Except for both films being about flesh eating zombies whose bite spreads the infection, the stories are vastly different.

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THE ZOMBIES

Dawn Of The Dead‘s zombies give the impression that we are dealing with the recent dead. Possibly due to budget limitations or artistic choices, the walking dead here are simply bluish with sunken eyes and a few show signs of being partially eaten or scarred themselves. They eat the living and there are hundreds of them wandering through the mall and it’s parking lot and they can only be stopped by decapitation or simply shooting them in the head. They seem to be mostly acting on instinct, showing only the most basic thinking, if it can be called that at all.

Fulci’s zombies are far more frightening looking, resembling decomposing corpses far more than Romero’s, with rotting flesh, hollow eye sockets and some covered in maggots. A stop at an ancient graveyard during the film proves even those long dead are rising and they too are ravenously hungry. There are somewhat fewer than in Dawn, but their appearances in fog shrouded deserted villages and their ghoulish make-up, makes them even more intimidating. They too can only be killed by decapitation, bullets to the brain and being burned completely.

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MAIN CHARACTERS

Both film’s focus on four main characters, though Zombie has some supporting characters as well, such as Dr. David Menard (Richard Johnson), and his wife (Olga Karlatos).

Dawn‘s four main characters are newswoman Fran (Gaylen Ross), and her boyfriend and helicopter pilot Stephen (David Emge), who are traveling with two S.W.A.T. team members, Roger (Scott Reiniger) and Peter (Ken Foree). They are taking the helicopter and running, which brings them to find safe haven in a massive shopping mall deserted all but for the dead. While Fran and Stephen have little or no training with firearms, Peter and Roger are well armed and expertly trained, which gives the four an edge.

Zombie‘s four have no such edge. Peter (Ian McCulloch) is a newsman given the story of the deserted boat and dead cop. Anne (Tisa Farrow) is the daughter of the boat’s owner, a doctor last seen on a small tropical island called Matul. They hitch a ride to the island with vacationing couple Brian (Al Cliver) and his pretty wife Susan (Auretta Gay). Neither couple has any idea what they are getting into, as opposed to Dawn‘s four, who are fully aware and prepared for what they may face.

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THE SETTINGS

The settings for these two film’s couldn’t be more different…

Dawn Of The Dead takes place in rural Pennsylvania, mostly at it’s massive Monroeville shopping mall which is near Pittsburg, where Romero went to college and made many of his earlier films. Here Romero uses his setting to make social commentary about class and consumerism.

Zombie‘s setting is the total opposite. While it opens and closes in New York City, the film takes place mostly in the Caribbean, on a small tropical island called Matul. Here, the only place our four have to hide is in an old church turned infirmary and that doesn’t provide them sanctuary for very long when the dead follow them there.

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THE OPENING SCENES

The opening scenes for both movies are effective in their own way but vastly different.

Dawn starts the tension by showing us Fran’s news station slowly coming apart as the situation outside spirals out of control. Rescue stations are closing and people are running from their desks scared. Panic is setting in as news to report becomes scarce and what news they are getting is too horrible to believe. The dead are returning to life to eat the living! This creates an atmosphere of dread long before we see the first zombies.

Zombie‘s opening sequence goes for the jugular…literally. It opens with a gun being fired at someone, or something, rising from under a sheet, drums beating in the distance. We then cut to an apparently deserted sailboat entering New York harbor. Once boarded by the harbor patrol, one officer is savagely bitten on the throat by what appears to be a walking corpse. Fulci gets us tense and grossed out right away with a graphic and savage attack in the first few minutes. We also get some early glimpses of what’s happening on Matul at Dr. Menard’s infirmary, so we know what is waiting for the two ill-fated couples before they arrive.

Both openings work in setting us up for what is to come, starting us off with an atmosphere of fear and foreboding. One film does it by showing it’s blood and gore right away, while the other, by showing us the mounting chaos before we are thrust into the S.W.A.T. team assault scene where we see our first zombies in action.

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THE ENDINGS

Both films end with down or ominous endings…

After a pitched battle with a motorcycle gang that invades their mall sanctuary and lets the zombies back in, a surviving Fran and Peter fly off in the chopper knowing they have very little gas and nowhere really to go. There fate is left uncertain, but things aren’t looking good for the pregnant Fran and the demoralized Peter. Dawn Of The Dead leaves their fate to our imaginations, but with the dead slowly gaining the upper hand, we don’t imagine much of a happily ever after for our two survivors. The film closes on a shot of the mall parking lot filled with the undead implying all may soon be lost.

As with it’s opening, Zombie‘s climax leaves nothing to our imaginations. After a bloody battle with the living dead in the old church, survivors Anne and Peter find their way back to the boat with a bitten Brian in tow. Once back in New York harbor, they are treated to a radio broadcast proclaiming the zombies are everywhere, just as the newly risen Brian starts banging on the cabin door. The film closes with a haunting scene of zombies crossing the Brooklyn Bridge into the Big Apple while things are left fairly grim for Peter and Anne. Apocalyptic and still chills decades later.

Here the films have stark similarities as both endings are bleak and present little chance or hope of our survivors finding an escape!

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IN CONCLUSION

Interesting as how one of these films was made as an unofficial sequel to the other, yet both are vastly different and both are considered classics. Dawn Of The Dead‘s success in Italy under the title Zombi gave Lucio Fulci the opportunity to direct Dardano Sacchetti’s script and have it be a sequel in name only, released as Zombi 2. He made his own movie, his way and it is considered one of the greatest zombie films of all time right next to Dawn. Despite Italian audiences, at the time, being led to believe they are related, they are completely different films with different stories and different tones. There are similarities, too. Both are famous for their abundant gore set pieces, such as Zombie‘s splinter in eyeball and Dawn‘s exploding head…not to mention both films’ zombie dining scenes. They are also both known for their haunting soundtracks, Dawn‘s by Italian rock band Goblin and Zombie‘s creepy score by Fabio Frizzi. And who could forget Zombie‘s shark vs zombie sequence or Dawn‘s zombies vs biker gang finale. Regardless of how Romero’s zombie classic may have given birth to Fulci’s in a way, horror fans got two unique masterpieces from two legendary filmmakers.

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982)

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THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982)

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

After making some true horror classics like Zombie and The Beyond, Fulci lost his way and this flick is a sad example. The story has a vicious killer stalking sexually active women in New York City. One who carves up their bodies in vile ways and makes ominous phone calls to the detective (Jack Hedley) investigating the case. The killer both kills and makes his calls while quacking like a duck…you read that right…and no woman seems to be safe as Det. Williams is baffled by this sadistic killer and his reign of terror.

1981’s House By The Cemetery was a lesser effort by Fulci and he followed it up with this sleazy and perverted slasher that seemed to be more mean-spirited than anything else. Gone is the artistic flair the Italian horror maestro directed his previous classics with and instead this is a vicious little movie that mixes some very nasty kill sequences with the silly premise of it’s killer quacking and talking like a cartoon duck when committing his horrifying acts. The mix of extreme violence and this comical plot element is unsettling, but not in a good way. Fulci’s films were always filled with blood and gore, but they had class. Here his camera lingers on perverted acts such as an unnecessary sequence of a promiscuous woman (Alexandra Delli Colli) being foot raped by a thug in a bar and the vicious savaging of a bound and gagged woman (Daniela Doria) with a razor blade. When it comes to exploitation, sleazy can be just fine, but here Fulci seems to be reveling in these misogynistic acts and it makes one uncomfortable as it has an edge to the viciousness that goes beyond trashy entertainment. Once we get our climactic reveal, the killer’s motivations really don’t make sense and the explanation is extremely convoluted. He doesn’t even have a solid reason for his butchery…or his disturbingly comical choice of vocalization. It doesn’t really work, as it’s just a weak excuse for all that has preceded it.

One a technical level, the film is well made enough for a modest budget and the gore is top notch as always in a Fulci film. Hedley and the rest of the actors are all fine for an Italian horror and there are some very pretty women in the cast, though some meet very gruesome fates. The beautiful cinematography of Sergio Salvati is sadly missed as are the atmospheric scores by Fabio Frizzi. Instead we get adequate but unremarkable cinematography by Luigi Kuveiller and a functional but forgettable score by Francesco De Masi. The script was written by Fulci and three co-writers and yet still seems weak despite all the collaboration, including Dardano Sacchetti, who worked on all of Fulci’s best films.

Overall, this is a lesser effort by a man who only a few years earlier made at least three films now regarded as Italian horror classics. Sadly, the maestro would never reach that pinnacle again, though his legacy as one of the horror greats is solid, just based on his work from 79-81. This film is effective, though sometimes not in the rights way and does have the extreme gore Fulci’s fans look for. Unfortunately, it can also be a mean-spirited film and one which wallows a bit too much in perversion and sleaze and comes across as somewhat misogynistic with it’s extreme brutality towards women. Not to mention the killer’s silly M.O. Worth a look if you are a horror fan discovering Fulci, but sadly a film that signals the beginning of a lesser chapter in Fulci’s legacy that he would not really recover from.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 razor blades.

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATE NOV 4-6

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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. “Doctor Strange” $85 Million

2. “Trolls” $45.6 Million

3. “Hacksaw Ridge” $14.7 Million

4. “Boo! A Madea Halloween” $7.8 Million

5. “Inferno” $6.25 Million

6. “The Accountant” $6 Million

7. “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” $5.6 Million

8. “Ouija: Origin Of Evil” $3.9 Million

9. “The Girl On The Train” $2.7 Million

10. “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” $2.1 Million

source: Box Office Mojo

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