BARE BONES: A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013)

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A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013)

Decided to take this old review out of mothballs and reprint it here. Was I the only person to have fun with this flick?-MZNJ

A Good Day To Die Hard has a lot of problems. The story is convoluted, the villains are weak and when the action stops there isn’t enough strong drama to keep us interested. Thankfully, the action rarely stops and it is quite amusingly over the top. This entry has John McClane (Bruce Willis) traveling to Moscow to try to see his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney) who has been arrested for murder. But what McClane doesn’t know, is that Jack is a CIA agent and involved in a mission to bust a Russian millionaire (Sebastian Koch), with ties to terrorism, out of jail to get the 411 on his partner…who also has his own plans to bust him out of jail. It’s no secret that McClane gets in the middle of things and once again becomes the fly in the ointment of all this Russian cloak and dagger. The result is the destruction of half of Moscow and what’s left of Chernobyl to boot.

The story by Skip Woods is as much of a mess as it sounds, but I still had a blast watching the father and son duo wreck the former Soviet Union to stop the bad guys. As directed by John Moore, the action scenes are ridiculously over the top and it’s still fun to watch Willis kick butt, even though his one-liners are getting tired and he gives you the impression that so is he of all this nonsense. How many times CAN one man get into so much trouble unintentionally? At least it’s part of James Bond’s job. It’s the stuff between the action that has us looking at our watches, as the dialog is weak and I can’t understand how a guy who is such a kick-ass hero can be hated so much by his kids. If my dad whacked terrorists on a regular basis and constantly blew stuff up, I’d probably think he was pretty cool. The villains never seem threatening enough to make us believe they stand a chance against the McClane family. I still enjoyed seeing them try, only to get their asses handed to them by Willis and Courtney, who could have a future as an action star. If there is a Die Hard 6, I hope they give daughter, Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) a catsuit and a gun to join in the fun. Why not? Go in with moderate expectations and turn off the brain and enjoy the fireworks, because that’s basically what this movie has to offer and on that level it can be a fun matinee, if you just don’t look for another classic like the original installment.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S TOP FAN-BOY MOVIE FANTASY VALENTINE’S!

Would we spend Valentine’s Day ❤ with Doomsday’s Eden Sinclair…even if it kills us…and it might.

MONSTERZERO NJ’S TOP FAN-BOY MOVIE FANTASY VALENTINE’S!

It’s THAT day again and I thought I’d have some fun with it this year. As film lovers we all have our favorite type of movie cutie and if you are single on this annoying holiday, shed no tears! Pull up a chair and fire up the DVD/Blu-Ray player and spend the day with one (or more) of these favorite type of fan-boy…or fan-girl?…movie fantasy Valentines! (Remember folks, this is ALL in fun!)

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE THRONE OF FIRE (1983)

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THE THRONE OF FIRE (1983)

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

Italian sword and sorcery flick has The Devil’s messenger, Belial (Harrison Muller) demanding witch, Azira (Beni Cardoso) bear him a child. He takes her, and after a thunder and lightening filled birth sequence, she bares him a cheesy rubber creature. The baby grows up into the powerful…and human looking…warlord, Morak (also Muller) whose mission is to kill the king and take his throne. It’s not just any throne, however, it is the Throne of Fire and only a rightful ruler may sit on it. Anyone else will be incinerated. To be worthy, he must marry the king’s daughter, the very reluctant Princess Valkari (Sabrina Siani) during a solar eclipse. Standing in his way is the warrior Siegfried (Pietro Torrisi, billed as Peter McCoy) who vows to free the princess and slay Morak.

In the 80s, the Italian cinema took advantage of any trend and cranked out Escape From N.Y. rip-offs, Road Warrior rip-offs, dozens of zombie films after Dawn of the Dead…and numerous Conan imitations, this being one. Throne…or Il trono di fuoco in it’s original Italianis directed by Franco Prosperi from a script by Nino Marino and is a cheesy, fun movie despite the serious tone. The sets look like they are from an episode of Star Trek, the fight scenes are badly choreographed and the dialogue, terrible and obviously dubbed…just listen to Morak happily reassuring his mom that he will slay women and children to get to the throne. Good times! Hero Siegfried is a muscular, bare-chested champion direct out of the Conan/Hercules clone catalogue and villain Morak’s army of thugs always attack him one at a time. We also get sexy, blonde, scantily-clad warrior princess Valkari, as played by Sabrina Siani, who seemed to be the Italian cinema’s go-to barbarian chick in the 80s. There is sorcery along with all the swordplay, including a spooky visit to the aptly named Well of Madness and various spells, both good and bad. The film is an amusing series of pitiful escapes and recaptures, taking place in and around the same castle, till the final confrontation which begs the question that if Morak could place the defiant Valkari under his spell, why did he wait till the end of the movie to do it? Who cares!…as long as we get to see people on the royal hot seat go up in flames every now and then. Wooden acting and wooden swords, it’s all a lot of cheesy fun with equally cheesy FX to go along with it.

Far from a classic…or even a good movie…Throne of Fire is a lot of “so bad it’s good” fun with swords and sorcery, muscles and maidens, all done with low budget ineptitude, but with plenty of dubbed charm. If nothing else, we have our loincloth wearing hero and animal-skin bikini clad heroine to provide eye candy, depending on your barbarian babe preference.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 warrior princesses before Xena made them cool.

 

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HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WOLF CREEK season 2 (2017)

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WOLF CREEK season 2 (2017)

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

Wolf Creek is a cult classic 2005 Australian horror from writer/director Greg McLean that introduced the world to homicidal Outback redneck Mick Taylor (John Jarratt). The film gained notoriety, but took till 2013 to produce a sequel and now, has brought us two seasons of an episodic web show. This second season finds a group of people on an Outback safari tour crossing paths with the Down Under psychopath. Mick hijacks the tour bus into the middle of nowhere and begins to hunt and slaughter it’s occupants as they fight to survive the harsh wilderness.

Second season is again six episodes with Wolf Creek creator Greg McLean once more returning to direct episodes and produce. The series continues to follow the dark, gritty, but more grounded tone of the original film, which made it so effective. Like the first season, it does feel a bit like a movie plot stretched out over five hours, but it manages it’s time well enough to never feel boring or repetitive. The added time of a mini-series let’s us get to know Mick’s potential victims very well, so they are more than just serial killer fodder. The show can be violent and brutal at times, but never goes over the top or gets campy. Mick is as intimidating as ever, with his off-color vulgarity and deranged sense of humor just making him even more disturbing. Where the first season was a story or retribution and revenge, this one is a tale of survival, as Mick strands the tourists in the middle of nowhere setting them against the elements and after a while, each other. Not to mention he’s constantly stalking them and anyone that comes in contact with them. As such, there are some innocents caught in the crossfire, like some Aborigine tribesman and a family living in an abandoned mining complex. It’s a bloody and effective journey till the inevitable showdown back at Mick’s lair, which has a few surprises waiting for us.

The cast are all good and once again we get an assortment of offbeat characters, like the strong-willed Rebecca (Tess Haubrich), criminal psychologist Brian (Matt Price), tattooed lesbian Kelly (Laura Wheelwright) and German tourists Oskar (Julian Pulvermacher) and Nina (Felicity Price). John Jarratt still plays Mick Taylor with the usual viciousness, intensity and gusto. He can play this role in his sleep at this point, but most certainly doesn’t as the character still disturbs us intensely.

In conclusion, the second season maintained the quality of the first season and gave us a different story with all new characters aside from Mick. Sure, it still feels like a movie plot stretched out over a longer running time, but managed it’s time a bit better, so less sequences felt like filler. It was intense at times and bloody and there was some nice suspense as Mick methodically thins the heard. Serial killer Mick Taylor hasn’t warn out his welcome yet and if there is a season three…and I won’t spoil if this season leaves us with that possibility…as Mick would say, I reckon I’d have to tune in!

Wolf Creek: The Series is available on the streaming service Stan.

EPISODE LIST

  1. Journey – directed by Greg McLean and written by Nick Parsons
  2. Outback – directed by Greg McLean and written by Shanti Gudgeon
  3. Chase – directed by Kieran Darcy-Smith and written by Nick Parsons
  4. Singing – directed by Kieran Darcy-Smith and written by Mark Dapin & Greg Haddrick
  5. Shelter – directed by Geoff Bennett and written by Shanti Gudgeon
  6. Return – directed by Geoff Bennett and written by Mark Dapin & Greg Haddrick

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated a solid 3 Micks.
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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES FEB. 9-11

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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. “Fifty Shades Freed” $38.8 Million

2. “Peter Rabbit” $25 Million

3. “The 15:17 to Paris” $12.6 Million

4. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” $9.8 Million

5. “The Greatest Showman” $6.4 Million

6. “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” $6 Million

7. “Winchester” $5 Million

8. “The Post” $3.5 Million

9. “The Shape of Water” $3 Million

10. “Den of Thieves” $2.8 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE UNSEEN (1980)

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THE UNSEEN (1980)

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

Exceptionally boring horror finds a newswoman, her sister and a friend (Barbara Bach, Karen Lamm and Lois Young respectively) heading to a small town to cover an event and a mix-up leaving them with no place to stay. They stumble upon an old house, that is now used as a museum and creepy owner Ernest Keller (Sydney Lassick), invites them to use his spare rooms. So, of course, three pretty girls accept an invitation to stay in a spooky old house with a man who is creepy from the get go. No surprise, this old house has a secret and the three young women will soon find out it is a deadly secret.

As directed by Danny Steinmann (Friday the 13 Part V) from a script by Michael L. Grace, this is a dull flick with basically little going on, including a dismally low body count for a slasher and very little blood and gore. It takes almost the whole movie to finally gather a little intensity, when Bach’s reporter Jennifer finds herself in the cellar with the Keller’s hulking secret (Animal House’s Stephen Furst). Unfortunately the hulking secret is more laughable than menacing, so there really isn’t much to make up for the slow pace and lack of suspense we have endured up to this point. Sure, the house is spooky and Lassick’s Keller can be very unsettling, but it’s not enough to make this film scary or even involving and our three lasses aren’t endearing enough to get us emotionally invested. Silent Scream did the whole hidden, crazy relative in the house thing a whole lot better that same year.

Despite what should have been a star making turn in The Spy Who Loved Me, Bach’s career never really went anywhere. She’s a bit wooden here and isn’t really that memorable as a final girl when she finally meets “Junior”. As Junior, it’s almost sad to see Stephen Furst, who gained notoriety as Flounder in Animal House, as, basically, a giant, deranged baby and the effect of his tantrums and efforts to kill Bach are laughable with the way the character is directed. It’s Sydney Lassick who is really creepy and even he goes a bit too over-the-top at times to remain effective. Lamm and Young are fine as Bach’s companions and Lelia Goldoni is sympathetic as Ernest’s abused sister/lover and mother of Junior.

This flick has a reputation, not sure why, but there is something about 80s horrors, even the worst have some sort of following. It was a great decade for horror. This one, however, is dull and even when it picks up, it provides unintentional laughs instead of chills. Barbara Bach shows little of the fire she showed as a Bond girl and the late Stephen Furst’s role is more embarrassing than memorable. I suppose if you’re an 80s completest, you should at least check it out, but don’t expect much.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 very large diapers.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE RITUAL (2017)

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THE RITUAL (2017)

Based on a book by Adam Nevill, this chiller finds four friends traveling deep into the Swedish wilderness on a hiking excursion while mourning the death of a fifth member of their group. Deep in the woods they find a supernatural entity presides there, one worshiped as a deity by the locals and who feeds on the mental…and physical…pain of it’s sacrifices…and anyone wondering into it’s territory qualifies as a sacrifice.

Film, directed by David Bruckner (the Amateur Night segment of V/H/S) from Joe Barton’s script, which is based on Nevill’s novel, evokes mixed feelings. On one hand it is basically The Blair Witch Project meets The Wicker Man (original version, of course) and thus is very familiar. On the other hand, Bruckner does conjure up some spooky sequences and the film has a very unsettling visual style, especially in the last act when it’s wendigo-like deity makes it’s appearance. There are scenes directly lifted from The Blair Witch Project with symbols found carved on trees, strange formations made from sticks and antlers and characters screaming in the distance as something unseen drags them away. There is a spooky cabin in the woods and even a witch. We do, however, also get some gory stuff with animals and people found gutted and hanging from trees and some very unsettling dream sequences, especially from lead Luke (Rafe Spall) who feels guilty over his friend’s death. It turns full blown into The Wicker Man in it’s last act, when the surviving hikers are taken to a village lost in time, where they are to be sacrificed to whatever lurks among the trees. Once the thing shows up, Bruckner gets some good effect from the spirit creature’s look and ferocity and the fight to escape it by the remaining characters. The movie is atmospheric and the small cast perform their clichéd roles well. There is a spooky score by Ben Lovett and some really effective cinematography from Andrew Shulkind to add to it’s overall effectiveness.

This film was a bit hard to rate as it is very effective in terms of it’s atmosphere, it’s spooky visuals and some effectively creepy moments from director Bruckner, but constantly reminds us of other movies. It does use the familiar elements to do it’s own thing, but also borrow heavily from some widely renown films. It’s definitely worth a look, but go in knowing you’ve seen a lot of it before. Also stars Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier and Sam Troughton as Luke’s three friends. Film is currently streaming on Netflix.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 deer.

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BARE BONES: BATTLE OF THE SEXES (2017)

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BATTLE OF THE SEXES (2017)

A great cast highlights this retelling of the epic “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King in 1973 during the height of the Women’s Liberation movement. It takes us on the journey leading up to the match, with up and coming female tennis player Billie Jean King fighting for equality within the pro tennis circuit and retired champ and gambler Bobby Riggs looking for a return to glory and a big payday.

Film is written by Simon Beaufoy and directed by Little Miss Sunshine duo Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton and is perfectly cast, especially in regards to it’s leads. Stone and Carell play King and Riggs spot on with Carell really enjoying Riggs’ attempts to “put the show in chauvinism”. If the film falters a bit it’s that it’s first half leading up to the challenge is a bit drab. It focuses a lot on the married King’s affair with a female hairdresser (Andrea Riseborough) and her attempts to start her own tennis tournament with World Tennis Magazine founder, Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman). It is very heavy on melodrama and is a bit dreary at times. It picks up in the second half when King finally accepts Riggs’ challenge and the lead-up to the match becomes a media circus and a major event. The second half has the energy and spark, that the first half was lacking, though those early story elements are of importance to the overall tale. Even knowing how the actual event ended, it’s still a lot of fun to watch this great cast play it out and makes this film so worth seeing. Also stars Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming and Elisabeth Shue as Riggs’ wife Priscilla.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX (2018)

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THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX (2018)

Another flick bearing the Cloverfield name and while also not a direct sequel, it is better connected to the original Cloverfield…in ways I won’t spoil…than 10 Cloverfield Lane. This flick has a six person team on board an orbiting space station trying to prevent global war by initiating the Shepard Particle Accelerator and bringing unlimited energy to an Earth fighting over fossil fuel. The activation of the device causes a dimensional disturbance hurling the station across dimensions and space and endangering the world they set out to save.

Written by Oren Uziel and directed by Julius Onah, this is an OK sci-fi thriller. It has a few of it’s own ideas, but sadly would rather fall back on the clichés and familiar tropes of previous flicks. The effects of the dimensional disruption never seem to make sense, as they sometimes appear random and other times occur just at exactly the right…or wrong time. Basically they are just plot devices to hinder or help our beleaguered crew depending on the needs of the weak script. Sometimes they don’t make any sense at all, like a dismembered arm delivering a written message. It’s just silly, aside from being contrived. The cast handle their two-dimensional parts well enough, though it seems like a waste of talent for a few familiar faces. The FX and sets are top notch and while it is better connected to the original film, the previous installment in this universe was a far better movie.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: CONQUEST (1983)

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CONQUEST (1983)

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

Sword and sorcery flick from Italian horror maestro Lucio Fulci tells the story of Illias (Andrea Occhipinti) who travels to a dangerous land as part of a coming of age ritual. With only a magic bow, he enters a dark land ruled by witch Ocron (Sabrina Siani). Along the way he meets warrior Mace (Jorge Rivero) and the two team up to try to defeat Ocron, who has set her sights on Illias and his bow.

Directed by Fulci from a script and story by four people, no less, there is actually very little plot here considering all that collaborated on it. Like most of Fulci’s flicks it is atmospheric and there is plenty of his trademarked gore, but it’s hard to get involved in something which has so little story to get involved in. Illias, at first, has no real goals entering this dark land and only finds a purpose once he sees the effects of Ocron’s influence and becomes a target of she and her werewolf-like minions. Visually the flick appears to be filmed entirely through smoke and a gauze filter, though Fulci’s visual style still comes through even with minimal sets and costumes. No better example than Ocron herself who is a beautiful nude woman who wears a spooky gold mask and seems to have a snake fetish. Sexy and creepy! The gore FX are solid as in all Fulci films, but the animation effects, and creature costumes are cheap and cheesy. Frequent Dario Argento collaborator and Goblin keyboardist Claudio Simonetti provides the music and Alejandro Ulloa provides the murky cinematography. The cast are all fairly wooden, with only Jorge Rivero adding some life to the roguish Mace and Sabrina Siani’s natural charms making for a visually tantalizing villain.

With a career of mostly horror flicks this was an unusual project choice for Fulci. The film has a lot of his trademarked elements, but suffers from having what barely qualifies as a plot. The costumes and sets are minimal and the non-gore FX are cheesy at best. The acting is also sub-par and the film oddly switches focus from Illias to Mace in the last act, which negates any interest we might have had in the young lad’s quest. The film is still watchable and there are some things to enjoy, but it is another sign of the legendary director running out of gas after delivering so many classics just a few years earlier.

-MonsterZero NJ

Beautiful Italian actress Sabrina Siani, sans creepy mask.

Rated 2 and 1/2 arrows from a bow far more magical than the film it’s in.

 

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