FAREWELL AND R.I.P. FRANK DOUBLEDAY!

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FRANK DOUBLEDAY 1945-2018

Actor Frank Doubleday played “Romero” one of Escape From N.Y.’s most infamous characters and the “White Warlord” in John Carpenter’s earlier Assault on Precinct 13. Sad word came out tonight, via his wife, that he passed away on March 3rd after a battle with cancer. His characterization of the eccentric Manhattan Island Prison inmate in Carpenter’s classic set the tone for the entire film and instantly made him an 80s movie icon. Doubleday, who was 73, also appeared in the 1985 action sequel Avenging Angel.

-MonsterZero NJ

Source: internet

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: FERAL (2017)

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FERAL (2017)

Flick has a group of six grad students taking a hiking trip deep in the woods. Alice (Scout Taylor-Compton) has brought her new girlfriend Jules (Olivia Luccardi) and officially come out to her friends, not all who take her pronouncement well. None of them, however, are prepared when a vicious and animalistic man attacks them in the night, wounding one and killing another. On route back to get their friend help, they encounter mysterious, lone woodsman Talbot (Lew Temple) who takes them to his cabin. After some provocation, Talbot warns them that what they encountered carries a virus that kills it’s host and takes over the body…and their wounded friend will eventually turn. Alice and company soon start to wonder how he knows so much and if he is possibly more dangerous than what now hunts them from outside.

A zombie is a zombie and whether it runs or walks, whether you call it a virus or if it’s supernatural in origin, it’s still a zombie. The creatures in Mark Young’s film, that he co-wrote with Adam Frazier, kill their prey, who themselves reanimate at night, vicious and hungry. Physically they more resemble the creatures from Neil Marshall’s The Descent, but otherwise, they are the living dead. Young and Frazier do try to freshen them up a bit, like the virus being dormant in the daytime and the creatures seeming to have animal-like intelligence, but at the core they are still zombies who need to be shot in the head to be put down. Even so, the attack scenes are still very effective, there is some nice tension and the flick gets quite gruesome, as the camping friends are besieged by these “feral” creatures of the night. The horror elements here are familiar, though still work well. What makes this film even more interesting, though, is strong characters, particularly lead Scout Taylor-Compton as Alice and the very effective sub-plot involving her and her girlfriend Jules. Taylor-Compton is a real bad-ass here, yet she is a caring one who is trying to protect her friends. Before the first “feral” creature appears, there is some tension as Alice is concerned for how her religious parents will react to her new relationship and her friend Jesse (Brock Kelly) is very un-excepting of her announcing she’s gay. Obviously Jesse focuses his anger on Jules and it’s no surprise at one point there will be a confrontation between the two. Young is a competent filmmaker and does use the familiar tropes solidly, but it is his characters and the insertion of some topical human drama that makes this undead chiller stand out a bit from the pack.

We have a good cast here. Mark Young uses Rob Zombie film vets Taylor-Compton and Lew Temple very well. Scout Taylor-Compton gives us a very strong and intelligent young woman, but one with a heart. She fights hard for her friends and loved ones and while it’s a bit convenient that she is a med student and from a “family of hunters”, she is a very strong final girl. She conveys a toughness and a sensitivity. She also has very good on-screen chemistry with Olivia Luccardi (It Follows) as Jules. They come across as a believable couple and it helps make their characters endearing. There is also some interesting tension between them, as differing opinions on dealing with infected friends causes conflict between the lovers. Temple is good as the woodsman who knows far more about these creatures than he first lets on. He has a dark secret and the actor keeps us curious till it’s revealed. It’s not anything we haven’t figured out, but Temple plays it well. Renee Olstead is fine as the injured Brienne, Landry Allbright is a standout as Gina, George Finn is likable as the ill-fated Matt and Brock Kelly conveys the anger and ignorance of Jesse very well. A good cast.

In conclusion, while still a zombie film at it’s core, it’s solidly directed by Mark Young. The horror scenes are gory and effective, and he and co-writer Adam Frazier try to make their zombies a bit different, which begs the question why they needed to be zombies at all and not just infected and crazed humans. What makes the film really worth a look is strong character interaction, a solid heroine in Scout Taylor-Compton’s Alice and an interesting story element finding a young woman opening up to her friends about being gay and the mixed reactions she and her girlfriend get. The dynamic of Alice fighting to save her friends, especially Jules, gives the film a fiery spark that adds something beyond good use of very familiar tropes. Definitely worth a look.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 bullets so you can shoot ’em in the head!

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MAY 25-27

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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. “Solo: A Star Wars Story” $83.3 Million

2. “Deadpool 2” $42.7 Million

3. “Avengers: Infinity War” $16.5 Million

4. “Book Club” $9.45 Million

5. “Life of the Party” $5.1 Million

6. “Breaking In” $4 Million

7. “Show Dogs” $3.07 Million

8. “Overboard” $3 Million

9. “A Quiet Place” $2.2 Million

10. “RBG” $1.1 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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REVIEW: SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (2018)

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SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (2018)

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

Latest Star Wars flick is an unnecessary origin story for iconic pilot Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich). It gives us brief glimpses of his life as a street thief, to his days as an imperial trooper, to meeting Chewbacca and finally his start as a smuggler, including his legendary Kessel Run. And as far as a story, that’s kinda it.

Written by Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan, the film was a troubled production that saw original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller leave the project to be replaced by Ron Howard, who did a lot of re-shoots. While the resulting film is not the mess once might anticipate, it’s also an underwhelming flick that never finds it’s footing or feels like the making of a legend it should. First problem is that actor Alden Ehrenreich never evokes Han Solo. If not for Chewbacca standing by his side and eventually getting in the pilot seat of the Millennium Falcon, he could be any generic space hero. Secondly, with all the iconic moments that are presented, such as getting his name and his gun and meeting his famous furry co-pilot, none of them are presented with much weight. The story also seems to be a bunch of set pieces strung together and thus we have no emotional involvement as the rebooted Han goes from place to place, meeting scoundrels like Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), villains like Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) and his sweetheart turned criminal arm-piece Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). It’s almost like they were making it up as they went along. None of it has any emotional resonance and aside from a few fun action scenes, none of it is very memorable. It rarely feels like a Star Wars film though having a bit of a different look and a grittier tone, was, at least, refreshing.

The cast all try hard, but no one really shines in what probably was a difficult shoot. As stated, Alden Ehrenreich never evokes the legendary character he plays and is a bit too much of a pretty boy to be the space pirate we all know and love. Harrelson phones in his Tobias Beckett, which is a shame as Woody is usually the one to add life to a movie. Clarke is pretty, but doesn’t generate much heat or make her character very memorable. She’s a generic love interest trying and failing to be a bit of a femme fatale. Her character just comes off as flat. Bettany is also very bland as villain Vos. He could be a generic gangster from any movie. The only person who generates some life is Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian and he, sadly, isn’t given all that much to do.

So, it’s not quite the disaster early word was predicting, but is still disappointingly mediocre. Rebooting a character this iconic has to be done just right…like J.J. Abrams Star Trek casting. Here Alden Ehrenreich falls short. The rest of the cast, Glover aside, phone in their performances and the story is too thin to get one emotionally involved. There is some fun action, though the film fails to make it’s iconic moments…well, iconic. A disappointing attempt to prequelize one of cinema’s most beloved scoundrels.

-MonsterZero NJ

  2 and 1/2 Millennium Falcons.

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BARE BONES: THOROUGHBREDS (2018)

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THOROUGHBREDS (2018)

Story takes place in a wealthy suburb in Connecticut and finds emotionally troubled Amanda (Olivia Cooke) facing trial for animal cruelty for brutally euthanizing her crippled horse. She is currently being tutored by Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) who hates her jerk of a new step-father Mark (Paul Sparks). Amanda suggests they kill him and Lily takes her up on the idea. When recruiting a local drug dealer (Anton Yelchin) to do the job fails, they begin to plot how to do it themselves.

Off-beat flick is written and stylishly directed by Cory Finley, but when all is said and done, doesn’t have much of a point. Unhappy kids plotting the murder of a parent or step-parent is nothing new and though it holds our attention, it ultimately doesn’t really go anywhere all that interesting. There is a bit of an unexpected twist towards it’s conclusion, but even that doesn’t add much overall to the scenario. Taylor-Joy and Cooke both deliver really good performances, especially Cooke’s emotionally detached Amanda, but Paul Sparks is just your stereotypical douche step-parent, though good at it. It’s bittersweet to see Yelchin in one of his last performances and his turn as delinquent Tim illustrates why he is sadly missed. Entertaining to a degree, but not unique enough to make a well-worn plot feel fresh and it comes to a conclusion that doesn’t feel like the film actually accomplished anything. Acting gives it a little extra in the rating.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE CHURCH (1989)

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THE CHURCH (1989)

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

Italian horror tells the story of a church that was built over the mass grave of devil worshipers, slaughtered by a squad of knights in medieval times…the era, not the restaurant. In modern day, new church librarian Evan (Tomas Arana) discovers the catacombs beneath the church floor and opens the seal. It unleashes the evil trapped below and locks everyone inside with it. Now possessions, demon manifestations and all sorts of demonic hi-jinx ensue as valiant Father Gus (Hugh Quarshie) tires to stop it.

This is a stylish, if not a tad silly, horror flick from Dario Argento protégé, Michele Soavi. The director and co-writer (along with Argento and Franco Ferrini) acted and worked behind the camera for both Argento and Fulci and at least visually, he learned well. The Church is never really scary and at times there are some unintentional chuckles, but design-wise there is some very creepy stuff here and some startling imagery. Soavi does give it some atmosphere, that is occasionally undone by the bad dialogue and sub-par acting, but also doesn’t skimp on the blood and isn’t afraid to show us some very disturbing sights. We have Evan pulling out his own heart, a man attacked by a fish creature in the holy water basin and a goat-headed demon having it’s way with pretty heroine Lisa (Barbara Cupisti). It’s an entertaining flick, though one probably must have a taste for Italian horror to really appreciate it. These spooky shenanigans are supposedly based on a book, The Treasure of Father Abbot Thomas by M.R. James, though after reading the synopsis, it doesn’t sound like there is much of a resemblance to the source material here.

There is no point discussing the acting to any degree, as no one here is going to win any awards. Hugh Quarsie is a noble enough hero as Father Gus, Tomas Arana is creepy as a possessed Evan and Barbara Cupisti is a cute and quite nubile heroine, who shows some alluring skin during her demon nookie sequence. There is also a small role by a very young Asia Argento as Lotte, the daughter of the church caretaker (Roberto Corbiletto).

Overall, this is creepy fun. It has some very effective imagery and atmosphere that helps even things out with the less than stellar dialogue and acting. There is some gore to go along with it’s demonic manifestations and director Soavi keeps things moving, so we don’t have much time to ponder too many questions. An entertaining Italian horror from the director of Cemetery Man.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 candles which are like everywhere in this movie.

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MAY 18-20

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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. “Deadpool 2” $125 Million

2. “Avengers: Infinity War” $28.6 Million

3. “Book Club” $12.5 Million

4. “Life of the Party” $7.7 Million

5. “Breaking In” $6.4 Million

6. “Show Dogs” $6 Million

7. “Overboard” $4.7 Million

8. “A Quiet Place” $4 Million

9. “Rampage” $1.5 Million

10. “RBG” $1.3 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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REVIEW: DEADPOOL 2 (2018)

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DEADPOOL 2 (2018)

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

Sequel finds our wise-cracking, anti-hero suffering a devastating personal loss and turning suicidal. With his powers of regeneration, that doesn’t work out so well and so Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) tries to help by recruiting him to the X-Men. That doesn’t work out so well either and Wade a.k.a. Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) finds himself sent to the Ice Box, a prison designed for mutants, along with a powerful, troubled boy named Russell (Julian Dennison). When a cyborg from the future named Cable (Josh Brolin) comes to kill Russell, Deadpool sees saving the boy as a way to prove he is capable of doing the right thing…but is he?

Deadpool 2 is this time directed by David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde) from a script by returning writers Paul Wernick, and Rhett Reese, along with star Ryan Reynolds. It doesn’t quite have the edge or energy of the first film, but is still good, naughty, bloody fun. The film is filled with the now traditional pop culture references and shots taken at other Marvel and DC properties, including The Merc with the Mouth telling Brolin’s Cable to “Pump the hate breaks Thanos at one point. The flick is a bit larger scaled with the action, no better example than an especially fun sequence with Deadpool and his team of misfits, including ‘lucky’ mercenary Domino (Zazie Beets), trying to stop Cable’s assault on an armored convoy. It’s bigger than anything seen in this series so far and gives Reynold’s co-stars a piece of the action, too. The flick has the usual humor-laced graphic violence and there are plenty of raunchy jokes with just enough wit behind them to make them work. A sequence with Wade regenerating his lost legs is especially hilarious. In fact while the flick seems to take itself a bit too seriously at times, in the first half, the second half comes alive with what we came for…including some hysterical post credit scenes. Like the first film, not everything works, but does succeed more often than not. The new characters of Cable and Domino are welcome to the Deadpool universe and we get returning familiar faces like Colossus, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), Weasel (T.J. Miller) and Wade’s ever-loving girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). It’s a fun time and while the hi-jinx aren’t exactly new, they are still fairly fresh here thanks to the creative team and the actors getting the tone of the material perfectly.

Ryan Reynolds is born to play this part and he does so like a boss. He delivers his lines with the same deadpan confidence as he did last time, while unafraid to equally poke fun at himself. Josh Brolin’s Cable may not quite be up to his Thanos from Avengers: Infinity War, but his second Marvel character this summer is still a solid villain that avoids being two dimensional, all the while having a deadpan sense of humor of his own. Zazie Beetz is a sexy delight as Domino. A mercenary who claims her superpower is luck and she’s an ass-kicker and can be quite funny herself. Julian Dennison is good as Russell. At first we feel sorry for his picked-on and abused mutant, but also start to see the power and rage which will become a problem in Cable’s future. Morena Baccarin is back as sexy, sassy Vanessa and we wish she had a bigger part. Colossus is again fun as voiced by Stefan Kapičić,  still amusingly portraying the metal encased X-Man as a big metal boy scout. T.J. Miller is still fun as Wade’s buddy Weasel. Brianna Hildebrand is back as N.T.W. and with a new look and a mutant girlfriend, Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna). Leslie Uggams is also back as Wade’s roommate Blind Al and Karan Soni returns as faithful cab driver and assassin wannabe Dopinder. There are also some great cameos that won’t be spoiled here.

In conclusion, it may not quite have the edge that the first film had, but it is still raunchy, bloody, sarcastic fun. There are some welcome new characters to add to the returning familiar faces and some bigger action set-pieces to throw those characters into. Reynolds is perfect again as the “Merc with the Mouth” and there are some fun post credits scenes to stick around for. Not exactly an equal, but an entertaining sequel that, in a way, is it’s own thing! As usual there is a soundtrack of cool songs included in the mayhem.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 unicorns…like last time.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE WITCHING SEASON (2015-2017)

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THE WITCHING SEASON (2015-2017)

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

The Witching Season is an indie web anthology series, currently found on Amazon Streaming, created by Michael Ballif and is five stories filmed between 2015 and 2017. All the stories are set on Halloween and are filled with pumpkins, scarecrows and masked individuals to ad the nuance of horror’s favorite holiday.

First story is written and directed by Baliff and is entitled Killer On The Loose and finds a pretty young woman (Hailey Nebeker) running for her life on Halloween night. She makes her way to an isolated home and with finding no one there, she enters and hides. Sure enough a masked man (James Morris) with a machete enters after her and now she is trapped alone inside with him. This was an effective tale and was atmospheric and suspenseful and even if we figured out where it was going to end, it was still creepy fun.

Second story, Princess, is written and directed by James Morris from a short story by Baliff and finds pretty single mother, Kendra (Anita Rosenbaum) moving into a new house with her little girl, Jamie (Emily Broschinsky) at Halloween. Jaime finds a box of toys in the basement including a creepy stuffed rabbit she claims is called Princess. Soon strange things start happening and it’s almost as if Princess has a sinister life of it’s own. Another atmospheric and creepy tale even if we’ve seen the evil doll scenario dozens of times before. It still works.

Third story is called Not Alone and is also written and directed by Morris. This story finds a man, Kyle (Sean Hunter) listening to UFO reports on a radio show and having some strange occurrences begin happening in his home. That’s about it. It is atmospheric, but doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s some weird things happening, a spooky climax and that’s it. Not Alone is the shortest and weakest of the five.

Fourth story is called They Live Inside Us and is written and directed by Baliff and stars James Morris as a writer (and other various roles) who breaks into the Boothe House where a infamous murder/suicide occurred. He’s there to get inspiration for a horror script he is writing and let’s say he gets it in droves. An interesting and spooky story that is the longest and possibly best of the tales and is another atmospheric entry from series creator Baliff. It also stars Stevie Dunston as Mrs. Boothe who appears in all of the writer’s various scenarios.

Fifth and final tale is called Is That You and is another directed by Morris from a story he co-wrote with Baliff. It’s a short and simple tale where a spooky nursery rhyme comes all too true for a girl, Whitney (Karlee Broschinsky) stuck home on Halloween night with an injured leg. There isn’t much to it and like Not Alone it’s basically someone in a house with weird occurrences going on around them until a spooky ending. It’s atmospheric, but again, like Not Alone, it really doesn’t go anywhere just sort plays out and then ends.

I enjoyed this web anthology series which shows a lot of love for the spooky season and horror films from the series creative team of Michael Baliff and James Morris. Even the weakest of the tales had some Halloween spirit and all were atmospheric. Both directors got good work out of their cast of unknowns and seem to handle their multiple chores on each story quite well. Baliff seems like the stronger of the two behind the camera, though Morris shows potential even if all three of his stories followed the same format. He did create atmosphere. There is some great cinematography all around and some effective music on each story by Randin Graves and the series opening credits is quite effective at setting the spooky tone. A well done labor of Halloween love from creator Michael Baliff and collaborator James Morris. Can’t wait to see more from these guys!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 pumpkins.

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MAY 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. “Avengers: Infinity War” $61.8 Million

2. “Life of the Party” $18.5 Million

3. “Breaking In” $16.5 Million

4. “Overboard” $10.1 Million

5. “A Quiet Place” $6.4 Million

6. “I Feel Pretty” $3.7 Million

7. “Rampage” $3.4 Million

8. “Tully” $2.2 Million

9. “Black Panther” $1.9 Million

10. “RBG” $1.2 million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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