MONSTERZERO NJ’S 12 IRISH HORRORS TO WATCH ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

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HAVE A HAPPY HORROR-FILLED ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

During this day of celebrating the Irish, those with horror in our Irish hearts can have plenty to watch with their corned beef and carnage! Here is a list of twelve recent Irish horror flicks…OK, #12 isn’t Irish or recent, but you know I couldn’t leave that one out…to send shivers down your shillelagh!

st patricks clovers

(Click on the titles below to get to our reviews of the titles covered here at the Movie Madhouse!)

1. The Hallow

2. From The Dark

3. Wake Wood

4. Grabbers

5. Let Us Prey

6. Isolation

7. Shrooms

8. The Canal

9. Dark Touch

10. Citadel

11 I Am Not A Serial Killer

12. Leprechaun

 

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: JOHNNY FRANK GARRETT’S LAST WORD (2016)

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JOHNNY FRANK GARRETT’S LAST WORD (2016)

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

In 1981, a nun by the name of Tadea Benz was brutally raped and murdered on Halloween night. A mentally handicapped young man by the name of Johnny Frank Garrett was convicted and executed for the crime. All during the trial and his incarceration Garrett proclaimed his innocence and on the night before he died by lethal injection, he proclaimed his innocence one last time in a letter that also said that those who wrongly accused him would pay…

This is from an actual real-life murder case that occurred in Texas in 1981 and serves as the basis for this horror film that takes the all-true story and portrays the effects of Garrett’s ominous last words as folks involved with the case and their loved ones, start to die mysteriously. Former juror Adam Redman (Mike Doyle) begins to investigate and finds they may have indeed sent an innocent man to his death and his revenge may now be coming to bare!

It’s hard to decide whether it’s daring or in bad taste that writer Ben Ketai and director Simon Rumley made a horror film out of a real life murder case…and not just based on it, like many films…but use actual events and names and all, adding a supernatural element to turn it into a horror flick. Whatever one decides, it is an effective horror and the fact that a lot of the events we are watching are true…such as later revelations that Jarrett may have indeed been innocent…adds a very unsettling element. The supernatural additions to the story are a bit disturbing, too, as Garrett’s “curse” target’s Redman’s son and he races to save him, as others from the case die around him. There are some creepy moments here, though turning the possibly innocent Garrett into a vengeful specter is a bit odd as you should want to feel sorry for him, yet he is preying on innocent children to make his point from beyond the grave. Obviously, the prosecutor (Sean Patrick Flanery) is the real bad guy here, but Jarrett is the “Freddy Krueger” of the flick and it’s still hard to feel bad for his cinematic incarnation and we should.  The film was still effective enough and it makes one want to catch up on Jesse Quackenbush’s documentary The Last Word, which is about the actual events including the discovery of evidence years later that Garrett might possibly have been a victim of a justice system at it’s worst.

This was an effective and atmospheric horror film, even if the use of so many of the real facts from the case makes one uneasy about their use. Whether the filmmakers were being daring or exploitive is probably up to the viewer. The end credits also proclaim that there were indeed a number of mysterious deaths concerning individuals close to the case, but, so far, my online research has not confirmed this. Courageous or crass, Johnny Frank Garrett’s Last Word is if anything an unnerving little horror flick that does inspire one to find out more about what really happened on October 31st, 1981 in Texas.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 gavels

 

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REVIEW: BRIMSTONE (2017)

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BRIMSTONE (2017)

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

Grim western tells the story of Liz (Dakota Fanning), a midwife married to a widower and with a child of her own. One day a mysterious, scarred preacher (Guy Pearce) comes to town, a man of the cloth that Liz knows from her past and greatly fears. This preacher knows her as well and proclaims that he has come to make the young woman suffer and bring her to retribution. Who is this man and what has Liz done to incur his wrath?

Over the next two and one half hours of writer/director Martin Koolhoven’s harrowing film, we go into Liz’s past to find out the answers to those very questions…and a harsh journey it is. The film is told in four parts with the middle two parts going back further and further into the story to tell us  how this quest for revenge began and how and if “Liz” earned it. It is not a pleasant journey and we bare witness to some cruel and hard events, as well as, some shockingly graphic violence along the way. To go in depth too much would be to spoil the mystery and even if he crafts an unpleasant film, Koolhoven does make an intriguing one, whose mysteries we want answers to. It’s suspenseful and many of the images and events we witness have impact and weight that stays with us. The film takes us through a series of sometimes unpleasant events that bring us to where our story opens…and then comes to an equally harsh and unsettling finish. It’s not perfect. At 148 minutes, it is a bit long, especially as it is not a happy tale and there are a few glaring mysteries left unanswered, such as how one character escaped what seems like a certain death. Add to that, the overall unpleasantness of the story and some of it’s subject matter and you have a well crafted film that is not always easy to watch. On a technical level it is a solid production with Koolhoven showing he knows how to frame a shot. There is nice cinematography by Rogier Stoffers and an effective soundtrack by Junkie XL along with some effective sets and settings for within which the story takes place.

The cast are all quite good, which helps keep us with this grim tale. Dakota Fanning proves quite the strong actress in her portrayal of Liz. We have a woman with a past who will fight to save the family she now has, but as strong as she is, this “Preacher” fills her with dread and fear and she conveys that to the audience, so we share her feelings. It is a solid performance with many facets for the young actress to portray…and she portrays them well. Guy Pearce is imposing as the mysterious and vicious “Preacher”. Whether his quest for retribution is just or not, he is a vicious and cruel man. He commits horrible acts and even as we go back into the past to see how this story began to unfold, we are treated to a hard and sometimes brutal man, who seems to be using his religion to excuse his actions. Pearce really gives this man a black heart that makes the character truly frightening. Emilia Jones is also very good as the younger “Liz” who goes by another name. Jones has to act out some very harsh and uncomfortable scenarios and the young actress does very strong work and it makes for a seamless portrayal of the younger version of Fanning’s frontier midwife in peril. The cast also features good work from supporting actors such as Carice van Houten as “Liz’s” mother and Game Of Thrones’ Kit Harington as an outlaw who crosses paths with our main characters at one point.

This was a very well made film, but not one you could say you enjoyed. It deals with some harsh subject matter and is sometimes cruel and unpleasant. One can definitely appreciate the talent of the director/writer and the craft of his cast, but it still is a tough watch at times. It is a bit long, even though it has a lot of story to tell and even at it’s length, there are some questions that remain. Recommended, but only with the understanding that this is not a pleasant film by any stretch.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 guns.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 HORRORS TO WATCH ON A SNOW DAY!

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It’s a snowy day here in good ole New Jersey and it made me think about what horror films, both classic and lesser known, would be perfect for such a wintry day…and here are ten of them!…

(Click on the titles below the movie poster gallery to get to our reviews of the titles covered here at the Movie Madhouse!)

1. The Thing From Another World

2. The Thing (1982)

3. The Thing (2011)

4. The Shining

5.  A Cold Night’s Death

6. Cold Prey

7. Blood Runs Cold

8. Wendigo

9. The Last Winter

10. Dark Was The Night

 

-MonsterZero NJ

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REVIEW: KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2017)

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KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2014)

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This new version of the King Kong legend takes place in 1973 at the end of the Viet Nam War when an uncharted island is discovered by satellite in the center of a perpetual storm system in the South Pacific. The monster hunting Monarch organization from Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla wants to send an expedition in, with the hopes of getting there before the Russians find out about it. Agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) heads the expedition team, including former SAS tracker, James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), combat photographer, Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) and a military escort lead by Lt. Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). Immediately upon reaching the island, they find a hostile environment populated by hostile creatures and manage to piss off the ruling predator, a 100 foot tall ape the local natives and stranded WWII airman Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) call Kong. After a confrontation with Kong that leaves the military escort decimated and the expedition stranded, the group begin to plan their escape from the island…all but the vengeful Packard, who wants to finish what he and the enormous simian started. Little do they realize, that there is a greater threat living beneath the grounds of Skull Island and Kong may be their only hope of surviving it.

The entire reason this reboot exists is to set up the eventual collision between the giant ape and Godzilla, now that Warner Bros has the rights to both and is starting their proposed Marvel-esque “Monster-verse”. In a way it shows, as this flick is directed somewhat by-the-numbers by Jordan Vogt-Roberts from a script by three writers, no less, including Godzilla scribe Max Borenstein. This new interpretation is a fun monster movie that is loaded with action and filled with an assortment of critters, but by removing the tragic elements and the Beauty and The Beast angle from the original story, the makers remove the parts of the tale that resonated the most and gave it emotional depth. Now it’s just a routine monster movie and while it does entertain, it is also a bit forgettable once the credits finish rolling. Vogt-Roberts moves things fast enough, but never succeeds in giving the film a sense of wonder or an emotional center. Even Kong seems more of a generic monster here, though a bit of a noble one and we don’t endear to him like previous incarnations. The film is still a fun time, but not much is going to stick with you after it’s over. The FX are top notch and the monster scuffles are fast and furious, but the film lacks the heart and soul that the original classic…and even, to a lesser extent, Peter Jackson’s remake…had that made them memorable and endearing. Aside from re-introducing Kong in order to set up another movie with The Big G, there really isn’t a point to this version and despite the monster menagerie and some likable characters, it’s a bit shallow, when all is said and done.

The cast are all good, though and overcome some stale dialog to make their characters enjoyable to watch, aside from the big CGI ape. Hiddleston is solid as former military man Conrad and proves again he is leading man material. Here he plays a tough guy with a heart and does so very well. Brie Larson is also very charming and likable as seasoned photographer Mason Weaver. She can scrap and battle monsters with the boys and hold her own with both Kong and Samuel L. Jackson and not loose her girl-next-door appeal. She conveys a strength and grace that should bode well for her upcoming MCU turn playing Marvel super-heroine Captain Marvel. Goodman avoids the clichés that come with government operative characters and gives his Bill Randa a boyish sense of wonder at what he has found on Skull Island. While the character did keep secrets, he is never portrayed as a villain. Samuel L. Jackson is dead-on as the battle-hardened warrior who is not going to let a giant ape get away with wiping out his squad, especially after a disappointing exit from the Viet Nam conflict. Jackson’s bravado and intensity does make him a suitable adversary for the gigantic ape. Rounding out the leads is John C. Riley, who gives the film a little comic relief and some heart as a man who has been stranded on the primordial island since WWII and has bonded with the natives and learned how to survive it’s beastly population. His Hank Marlow provides us with some important exposition about Kong and his homeland, too. The supporting cast are all fine, as well and the strong cast helps make this as fun as it is.

Overall, this is a fun Saturday or Sunday matinee monster movie with plenty of creatures and numerous monster brawls to pass the time. The solid cast elevates a routine script and some stale dialog and the film is fast paced enough to keep us from thinking too much about things. The tragic soul of the original story is lacking and while there is a brief bonding moment between Kong and Larson’s Mason Weaver, the epic Beauty and the Beast element is missing as well. This Kong never gets to see New York or fall in love, but if he is still a growing boy as Hank Marlow seems to suggest, he should be big enough to lock horns with Godzilla as Warner Brothers plans them to do in 2020…which is the entire reason we got this movie. A fun, but forgettable monster mash.

Be sure to stay through the credits for a Marvel-esque post credit sequence that reveals Godzilla’s “co-stars” in the upcoming Michael Dougherty directed sequel Godzilla: King Of The Monsters due in 2019.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 big apes.

 

 

 

 

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MAR 10-12

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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. “Kong: Skull Island” $61 Million

2. “Logan” $37.8 Million

3. “Get Out” $21 Million

4. “The Shack” $10 Million

5. “The LEGO Batman Movie” $7.8 Million

6. “Before I Fall” $3.1 Million

7. “Hidden Figures” $2.8 Million

8. “John Wick: Chapter Two” $2.7 Million

9. “La La Land” $1.8 Million

10. “Fifty Shades Darker” $1.6 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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BARE BONES: DON’T KILL IT and DARK FOREST

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DON’T KILL IT (2016)

Horror/comedy follows the exploits of demon hunter Jebediah Woodley (Dolph Lundgren) as he hunts a nasty body hopping demon in a small town. The demon’s murderous activities attracts the attention of the FBI and now Woodley is forced to team with sexy FBI agent Evelyn Pierce (Kristina Klebe from RZ’s Halloween and Tales Of Halloween) to hunt it down…if he can convince her it really exists and he’s not crazy.

Goofy, fun and delightfully over-the-top gory, flick is directed in Sharknado style by Mike Mendez from a script by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen. Sure it’s silly and never scary for a minute, but the cast seem to be having a good time and Mendez brings his energetic and humor filled style to the proceedings such as he did with Gravedancers and Big Ass Spider. Mendez can take the most ridiculous of premises and just run with it and this flick is no different. Lundgren plays it straight, as does Klebe who proves once again she can pull double duty as leading lady and action hero. Goofy, harmless and blood-spattered fun.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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DARK FOREST (2015)

Slasher homage finds four gal pals, Emily (Laurel McArthur), Michelle (Veronica Ternopolski), Francine (Jalin Desloges) and Jolene (Weronika Sokalska) all heading into the woods for a girls camping trip. Unknown to them, they are being followed by Peter (Dennis Scullard), Emily’s psychotic boyfriend who wants revenge for being defied and embarrassed by the four party girls. As our unsuspecting hotties enjoy their trip, Peter cuts a bloody path of pursuit into the woods leaving a trail of bodies behind him.

Flick written and directed in 80s slasher style by Roger Boyer may be a bit amateurish at times, but has it’s bloody heart in the right place. Boyer may not conjure any real scares, but the film does have a strong 80s slasher vibe, including 80s style soundtrack and gives us some abundant gore and an equally abundant cast of hotties, much like the horrors of that era did. Our four leading ladies are actually quite fine in their roles and are very likable characters to root/fear for while Scullard does make a creepy killer. Boyer’s slasher may be short on story, but at 75 minutes, the flick is kept short and sweet and doesn’t wear out it’s welcome. Sure there are some editing weaknesses and the film looks very low budget, but these are things a filmmaker can overcome with experience and low budget horror is where the heart and soul of the genre resides anyway. A nice effort that pays respectful tribute to it’s influences.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: GET OUT (2017)

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GET OUT (2017)

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

Get Out is another movie surround by massive hype that it does’t really live up to, but is certainly worth seeing. The film tells of young black man, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) going up to a wealthy white community to meet the parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) of his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams). Chris immediately starts to feel something is wrong, as her parents are a little too eager to see him and appear open-minded to him. Worse still, the only black people he encounters are behaving quite strangely and the neighbors are a bit “off” to say the least. The longer he stays, the more he comes to believe something sinister is going on and he might be in danger if he stays…but will they let him leave?

Written and directed by Jordan Peele, this is a sort of combination of Stepford Wives and Disturbing Behavior with an African-American angle added. The film is obviously filled with statements on race relations and the status of black Americans in today’s world. And important though they be, the film’s messages were a little too obvious, at times, when subtlety was working much better, such as the party scene where Chris meets the neighbors. The film works best when dealing with paranoia and Chris not being sure if this hidden threat is real or imagined. Also, the flick isn’t nearly as scary as the hype surrounding it suggests, but Peele does create some nice atmosphere and tension and there are some scenes where there are some unsettling and yet darkly humorous moments. The film stumbles a bit with some intrusive comedy bits involving Chris’ TSA friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery) and an over-the-top Franenstein-ish twist in it’s last act which dangerously borders on silly…though does work. It’s also obvious from the first scene at the house that Rose’s parents, Dean and Missy, are complete phonies, so it’s no surprise when we realize they are up to no good…and certain betrayals are also no surprise either, with that in mind. Peele still shows some strong potential, as he has a nice visual eye, constructed some spooky hallucinogenic sequences that are very effective and the last act has some impact as Chris enters in a fight for his life. There is some startling violence and the script is clever with connecting the dots from what we’ve seen during the course of the film to it’s big reveal. Not a great film, but one that works more than it doesn’t and shows that Peele has a cleverness to his writing we are interested in seeing more of.

Another thing that helps Peele is a good cast. Daniel Kaluuya makes for a down to earth, but solid hero. He is likable and seems like a genuinely nice guy. He conveys Chris’ paranoia well and even a reluctance as he is forced to act violently when thrust in a life and death situation. Catherine Keener nearly steals the show as Rose’s therapist mother. She oozes malevolence, once things get going and the sequences of her using her hypnotherapy on Chris are some of the creepiest in the film. Bradley Whitford is fine as Rose’s surgeon dad. He comes across as a bit too phony and obvious, though and his liberal banter to impress Chris comes across as exactly that and should have set alarms off right away. Allison Williams is also fine as Rose and while she doesn’t get much to do early on, she does deliver some nice malice once her true nature is revealed. Lil Rel Howery is the only character that I felt didn’t fit in. He is a little too over-the-top comic and that didn’t quite fit with the more subtly satirical nature of the rest of the film. He would be fine in an outright comedy, but his bits got in the way of the tension that Peele was trying to build. This seemed, however, due more to directing and script than an actor doing his job. Finally, Caleb Landry Jones is suitably creepy as Rose’s brother who is a little less eager to hide his true self and is the first character to signal to Chris that he may not be as welcome here as he is led to believe.

A horror masterpiece?…no…an instant classic?…not really, but once you ignore the hype and take it for what it is, it is an interesting horror debut from Jordan Peele that isn’t perfect, but has enough that works to make it worth a watch. While Peele’s messages and social commentary can be a little too obvious at times and the film’s comic moments are a bit intrusive, a slightly satirical slant keeps the film from getting too preachy, which is in it’s favor. There is also some nice tension, an engaging climax and some really good performances especially from our leading man and Keener’s villainous therapist. It’s not nearly as scary as over-active hype would suggest, but it does have some intense and purposely uncomfortable sequences and does leave one thinking about how we are seen by and behave toward our fellow Americans. So flaws aside, this makes Jordan Peele a filmmaker to watch and Get Out a film that warrants watching as well…just don’t let the hype set standards for the film that it cannot possibly live up to.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 deer…you’ll have to see the movie

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE EXORCIST III (1990)

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THE EXORCIST III (1990)

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

This review is for the original theatrical cut.

Third film in this series is written and directed by original film/book writer William Peter Blatty after being passed on by both The Exorcist director William Friedkin and then John Carpenter. This film is based on Blatty’s book Legion and follows Detective William Kinderman (George C. Scott) who is investigating a series of murders he reluctantly starts to believe are being committed by a serial killer who has been dead for seventeen years. The trail, however leads to Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller), a good friend of Lt. Kinderman who himself died while performing an exorcism around the same time the Gemini Killer (Brad Dourif) met his demise. As Kinderman delves deeper in this mystery, his beliefs are shaken as he may indeed be facing a sinister force with a horrifying agenda.

Blatty’s only other directorial effort is the bizarre 1980 The Ninth Configuration and his minimal experience does show at times with some of the pacing and scene staging being a bit off at points during the film. He also does manage, though, some very spooky and disturbing sequences, especially during the film’s creepy second half. It’s a vast improvement over John Boorman’s 1977 Exorcist II: The Heretic, which is generally regarded as an epic fail and the idea of a demon using a serial killer’s soul to exact revenge on the priest who once evicted it, is chillingly original. Blatty’s initial exorcism-less cut was met with poor test screenings forcing the studio to ask him to add an exorcism to the proceedings and the sequence’s exorcist Father Morning (Nicol Williamson) was also added to the film. After a bit of a slow build, Blatty’s thriller starts to really click in the second half and we get the spooky and sometimes outright disturbing flick we came to see, whether it was the studio mandated changes or not.

What really makes this work, too, is George C. Scott’s giving his all in a portrayal of a policeman finding out that there are indeed things that go bump in the night and the closer he gets to the truth, the more bump they go and the more bodies fall. A veteran actor, Scott always treated every film with the same respect and the Oscar nominated actor…he actually won for Patton, but refused the award…plays the material straight and with intensity. Brad Dourif is absolutely chilling as the Gemini Killer, whose spirit taunts Kinderman while inhabiting Father Karras’ body and as Karras, a returning Jason Miller gives us a tortured soul forced to co-inhabit a body with a man who is everything the priest stands against. Nicol Williamson is also good in his post-production added role as exorcist Father Morning and the rest of the supporting cast, including odd cameos from Fabio and Patrick Ewing as angels, also add solid support.

The Exorcist is a horror masterpiece and making one sequel was a risk that backfired badly. Blatty originally wanted this third film titled Legion, much like the book it’s based on and there was no exorcism in the original cut. The studio demanded it be more directly linked to the classic film by titling it The Exorcist III and then after audiences didn’t get what they came for, had the filmmaker/writer add one to the story. It still works despite studio tinkering and a director who was a bit of a novice taking the reigns. It’s not perfect, but is still, at times, a spooky and chilling film with some top notch performances.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 nasty murder weapons.

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BARE BONES: COLLIDE

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COLLIDE (2016)

Noisy and dull action flick has Casey (Nicholas Hoult) quitting his job working for a drug dealer named Geran (Ben Kingsley) when he meets and falls for the beautiful Julliette (Felicity Jones). But when his new love needs a new kidney, Casey goes back to work and runs afoul of Geran’s rival, powerful drug lord Hagen (Anthony Hopkins). Still with me?

Boring action flick is directed by Eran Creevy from a script by he and F. Scott Frazier. Despite a good cast and a lot of fast paced car chases, the flick can’t generate much interest thanks to a weak script, too hip for it’s own good direction and more clichés than you can drive a Ferrari through. The filmmakers are more concerned with headache inducing camerawork and an obnoxiously loud soundtrack than with reigning in their actors, such as the shamelessly over-the-top Kingsley. The flick was barely interesting enough to keep one’s attention despite all the noise and wastes the new star power of Rogue One’s Felicity Jones by giving her scant little to do.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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