REVIEW: GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (2019)

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GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (2019)

Sequel takes place five years after the events of Godzilla 2014 with Godzilla keeping a low profile and being monitored diligently by the Monarch organization. Other creatures, or “Titans” have been discovered across the globe and the military wants them all destroyed, while Monarch believes they represent a balance in nature. Eco-terrorist Colonel Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) feels the Titans should all be freed to restore that balance and plans to steal the Orca…a device capable of communicating with, and possibly controlling the monsters…to accomplish this. He kidnaps Orca creator Dr. Emma Russell (Verga Farmiga), her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) and her invention and thus sends Monarch and Emma’s estranged husband Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) in hot pursuit. But Jonah gets more than he bargained for, when he uses it to release the three-headed space monster Ghidorah from his icy prison and the beast challenges Godzilla for the title of King of the Monsters. Add in the Queen of the Monsters Mothra and the fire demon Rodan and earth soon becomes a monster sized war zone.

Trick r Treat director Michael Dougherty takes over from Gareth Edwards and seems to have a far better grasp of the material. He also does script duties along with Zach Shields, from a story by they and Max Borenstein. What we get is far closer to a Toho Godzilla film than the 2014 flick and one that is a lot more fun. Sure the plot is a bit goofy, but no goofier than an alien race building a robot Godzilla or a creature created completely from pollution. It’s filled not only with tons of fun references to Godzilla flicks of the past, but we get all the traditional story elements like devious villains, stalwart scientists, brave military types and a smarter than the adults kid. Not only are all the tropes proudly paraded out for those familiar with the series, but it has some of the most spectacular monster battles ever presented, as Godzilla, Ghidorah, Rodan and Mothra all converge to duke it out and destroy everything in their paths. The final showdown in the city of Boston is absolutely amazing and Yankee fans might even get a giggle over Godzilla and Ghidorah throwing down in the middle of Fenway Park. It’s also a true popcorn blockbuster, so even those not too familiar with the Big G and his 65 year history, can still enjoy the flick on a purely entertainment spectacle level and monstrously entertaining it is. Not to mention, the film’s final image is something every Godzilla fan has wanted to see from day one. On a technical level, the SPFX are amazing, the monsters are truly titanic and majestic and their destruction is on a totally massive scale. The score by Bear McCreary is far more fitting than Alexandre Desplat’s ho-hum score for Zilla 2014 and delightfully mixes in some of Akira Ifukube’s classic Godzilla themes to add a nice touch of nostalgia to the film.

The cast are good and all of them get the material. They play it seriously…but not too seriously. Leads Farminga, Chandler, Brown and Dance all do well in essaying their roles. Vera Farming as the scientist with a personal reason to get involved, is solid and helps us understand her decisions, even when they are the wrong ones. Chandler is fun as the father and husband trying to get his estranged family back. He’s a good lead and his old fashioned character fits this kind of movie well. Charles Dance is impeccable as ever as the villainous Alan Jonah, who like Thanos, thinks he is doing the right thing by trying to unleash these creatures. Millie Bobby Brown is especially endearing as Madison and in many ways is the emotional center of the flick. The supporting cast are all good, too, especially Ken Watanabe returning as Dr. Ishirō Serizawa and Zhang Ziyi playing Dr. Ilene Chen, a character who pays tribute to a familiar Mothra trope in a very fun and clever way. A good cast that even give some very corny dialogue a little dramatic weight.

Overall, this was a really fun and action packed sequel to a film widely criticized for skimping on the monster action. It has monster battles to spare, but still gives us some people time along with a very Toho-esque storyline. Michael Dougherty keeps the 132 minute flick moving very fast and pays loving tribute to the classic Godzilla flicks in some fun and very clever ways. Stay through the credits for not only an end credits scene, but for some amusing interwoven news items that echo what is to come. A gargantuan blast of a good time!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) King of the Monsters.

 

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BARE BONES: THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA (2019)

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THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA (2019)

Supernatural horror takes place in 1973 with widowed social worker Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini) looking into the death of two children, from one of her cases. Their mother (Patricia Velásquez) claims it was La Llorona, The Weeping Woman, who murdered her children and they are dead because of Anna’s interference. Anna discovers that La Llorona is from Mexican folklore, a woman in the 1600s who got revenge on a cheating husband by murdering her own children and then killing herself. Distraught with guilt, her spirit is now said to seek out other children to kill to take the place of her own. Whether the folktale is true or not, a dark force is now stalking Anna and her own kids (Roman Christou and Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen). Is the spirit of La Llorona real and out to get Anna’s offspring?

Generic horror flick is directed by Michael Chaves from a routine script by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis. Mexican folklore base could have been interesting had there been a more involving movie built around it, or a better use of that folklore. Flick centers on the usual, vengeful, sinister specter surrounded by dark cinematography, flickering lights and an abundance of jump scares. The lead character, Anna, is the cliché skeptic who is forced to go to someone of faith and supernatural belief (Raymond Cruz) for help. There is even an exorcism of sorts in the last act. Chaves tries to build atmosphere and Cardellini gives it her all, as the frightened Anna, but this is just too familiar to really evoke solid scares. It follows the recent template for mainstream supernatural horror to the letter and does nothing innovative or intriguing with it. While it also lacks the over-the-top fun of last years The Nun, this was still another box office hit for producer James Wan and his Conjuring universe, which this film is thinly linked to by the appearance of Annabelle‘s Father Perez (Tony Amendola).

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MAY 24-26

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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. “Aladdin” $86.1 Million

2. “John Wick: Chapter 3-Parabellum” $24.3 Million

3. “Avengers: Endgame” $16.8 Million

4. “Pokemon Detective Pikachu” $13.3 Million

5. “Brightburn” $7.5 Million

6. “Booksmart” $6.5 Million

7. “A Dog’s Journey” $4 Million

8. “The Hustle” $3.8 Million

9. “The Intruder” $2.2 Million

10. “Long Shot” $1.5 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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REVIEW: BRIGHTBURN (2019)

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BRIGHTBURN (2019)

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

Flick takes place in the small Midwestern town of Brightburn, Kansas where couple Tori and Kyle Breyer (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) are trying unsuccessfully to have a child. One night, something crash lands on their rural property. The object is a ship containing a baby boy, whom the couple take in as their own and name Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn). As Brandon reaches his twelfth birthday, the ship hidden in the barn starts to send him disturbing messages, and he starts to show signs that he has powers that make him almost super human. But unlike the world famous superhero whose story this seems so similar to, Brandon has no interest in using his powers for good. In fact, Tori and Kyle soon learn their adopted son may be more Michael Myers than Clark Kent.

Superhero horror flick is very well directed by David Yarovesky from a clever script by Mark and Brian Gunn. The writers have taken what is basically the story of Superman and added the caveat of what Superman would have been like if he had malevolent intent, instead of being the giant Boy Scout he was. Brandon Breyer is no Clark Kent, as he develops a liking for hurting others and director Yarovesky really uses this twisted twist on a classic superhero scenario to his advantage. This is Smallville meets Elm Street as Brandon torments and kills those he doesn’t like, or anyone who crosses him. Once the town of Brightburn is on alert that a killer may be on the loose, Brandon uses his superhuman powers to intimidate or eliminate anyone who can give him away. No one is safe…not even Kyle and Tori. The result is one of the best horror films so far this year, as Yarovesky and his script writers delightfully mix superhero flick and old fashion slasher movie. It’s quite chilling as Brandon dons his red cape and creepy red mask and starts stalking his human prey, dispatching them in gruesome ways. This is a hard R and there are many chilling and suspenseful moments as Brandon becomes more and more evil and more and more vicious. It all leads to a nail-biting last act at the Breyer residence that really turns the super screws. A super bloody good time, it is.

The cast is really solid here and play the material very seriously. Elizabeth Banks is very strong as Brandon’s “mother” Tori, who at first refuses to believe her adopted son is capable of the things he’s accused/suspected of and when she finally sees him for what he is, becomes a mother very frightened of her own child. Jackson A. Dunn is really creepy as Brandon. He starts out a bit sympathetic, as a boy realizing he’s different and having trouble fitting in, but then transforms into a disturbing and frightening villain, in the Jason Voorhees mold, as he begins to realize that he is the most powerful creature on the planet. David Denman is good as his “father” Kyle who comes to terms a bit quicker with the fact that they may have a monster in their midst. In support there is good work by Meredith Hagner and Matt Jones as Brandon’s Aunt Merilee and Uncle Noah, who unfortunately get on the lad’s bad side.

This was one scary horror flick at times and really used the idea of a superhero gone bad to unsettling effect. What if Superman had the mind of a serial killer? It’s a frightening concept to have a sadistic mind in a body so powerful and it’s even more disturbing that Brandon is only a child. His parents brought him up right, but wherever he’s from, it’s not Krypton. Highly recommended for horror fans, and superhero fans who were always curious what would happen if Clark Kent was a psychopath.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) creepy serial killer/superhero masks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: CHERNOBYL DIARIES (2012)

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CHERNOBYL DIARIES (2012)

With HBO’s Chernobyl getting some attention, I thought I’d drag this review out of the vaults-MZNJ

Chernobyl Diaries tells the story of a group of six twenty-somethings who sign up for a shady tour of Pripyat, a city outside Russia’s infamous Chernobyl reactor, where all the workers lived with their families. The city is still abandoned…or is it?

Despite the novel set- up, Diaries becomes very routine once our young adventure seekers become trapped in the city with whatever is lurking there. Despite some reasonable competence behind the camera by director Brad Parker, the film never generates much suspense or tension, as we know what’s coming and even the jump scares were familiar enough to not have much effect. The photography is spooky and it helps give it a bit of atmosphere, but the two dimensional characters never give us a reason to care and the film follows a time worn blueprint for this kind of flick. Add to that a very odd and unsatisfying end that doesn’t help either.

Chernobyl Diaries isn’t the worst horror, but it’s lazy in that it takes it’s unique setting and places within it a very unoriginal story and does nothing interesting with playing it out. It’s as if the filmmakers felt that the creativity with the initial idea of setting a movie in that desolate area was enough to carry the whole film. It’s not. They could have at least given us some shocking gore. They don’t even do that, as the kills are off screen and the carnage is barely shown. Flick is written by Paranormal Activity’s Oren Peli, Carey Van Dyke and Shane Van Dyke and stars Olivia Taylor Dudley, who later went on to star in The Vatican Tapes and the final Paranormal Activity flick The Ghost Dimension.

-MonsterZero NJ

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MAY 17-19

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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. “John Wick: Chapter 3-Parabellum” $57 Million

2. “Avengers: Endgame” $29.4 Million

3. “Pokemon Detective Pikachu” $24.8 Million

4. “A Dog’s Journey” $8 Million

5. “The Hustle” $6 Million

6. “The Intruder” $4 Million

7. “Long Shot” $3.4 Million

8. “The Sun Is Also a Star” $2.6 Million

9. “Poms” $2 Million

10. “Uglydolls” $1.6 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: JULIA’S EYES (2010)

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JULIA’S EYES aka LOS OJOS DE JULIA (2010)

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

Julia’s Eyes is an occasionally effective and nicely photographed thriller that tries to be a combination of Italian Giallo and Hitchcockian thriller, but doesn’t quite succeed at either. Eyes is the story of Julia (The Orphanage’s Belén Rueda) a woman with a degenerative sight condition who is investigating the suicide of her twin sister, who was also afflicted. What follows is a somewhat convoluted tale as Julia, with her rapidly diminishing sight, tries to track down an almost phantom like character who she feels is responsible for her sister’s death.

There are some very effective scenes in this Spanish thriller especially the spooky opening scene and the climactic confrontation, but there are a lot of slow spots in between and some of director and co-writer Guillem Morales’ ideas and plot directions border on the silly. Morales shows potential to be a good director, there is some nice atmosphere and everything is well framed and shot. There are some solid scenes of tension and he also gets good performances from his cast, especially from leading lady Rueda. Morales just needs to rein his scripts in a bit and try to not let his story stray outside of what is necessary to tell his tale. The flick feels about 10-15 minutes too long with some scenes playing out far longer than they seem like they need to. Perhaps at a tighter 90 minutes, Julia’s Eyes would have been more of the thriller he was going for.

Julia’s Eyes is produced by Guillermo del Toro and is still worth a look despite it’s flaws. Guillem Morales has worked only sporadically since, despite showing potential here, while ironically, co-writer Oriol Paulo has gone on to have a successful career as a writer and director.

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: I TRAPPED THE DEVIL (2019)

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I TRAPPED THE DEVIL (2019)

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

Spooky flick finds Matt (A.J. Bowen) and his wife Karen (Susan Burke) going to the family house on Christmas night to visit Matt’s emotionally troubled brother Steve (Scott Poythress). They arrive to find the house in disarray and Steve insisting they leave. Matt refuses to go and soon they find out Steve has someone locked behind a door in the cellar…someone he claims is The Devil.

Flick is atmospherically directed by Josh Lobo from his own script. There are some very spooky moments here, especially when we are in the cellar and near that door. He uses Bryce Holden’s lighting and Ben Lovett’s really unsettling score to maximum effect in building a mood of dread and foreboding. The voice on the other side of the door sounds human, but there is something about it that makes Matt and Karen…and us…unsure. Does Steve really have Old Scratch trapped behind the cellar door? If anything holds this flick back a bit is that the dialogue sequences can get a bit tedious even for a film well under 90 minutes. The premise provides very little opportunity for action, so there is a lot of talk between the chilling moments, and it needed to be more involving. Steve’s babbling does indeed lay down doubt of his sanity, but also can get a bit annoying at times. It’s when things get creepy, like with Steve’s oddly behaving TV, that this film really works. The cast are fine, though Scott Poythress’ Steve could have been more intense, and there is a really unsettling and blood-spattered finale.

Overall, this was a really unnerving flick at times, though not consistently. Writer/director Josh Lobo knows how to build atmosphere and tension, but could make his dialogue sequences more gripping. An original idea that is certainly worth a look. May not be perfect, but is really effective when it is working.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 (out of 4) Christmas trees…it is a Christmas film after all.

 

 

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MAY 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. “Avengers: Endgame” $63. Million

2. “Pokemon Detective Pikachu” $58 Million

3. “The Hustle” $13.5 Million

4. “The Intruder” $6.6 Million

5. “Long Shot” $6.1 Million

6. “Poms” $5.1 Million

7. “Uglydolls” $3.9 Million

8. “Breakthrough” $2.5 Million

9. “Tolkien” $2.1 Million

10. “Captain Marvel” $1.8 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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BARE BONES: HELL OF A NIGHT (2019)

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HELL OF A NIGHT (2019)

Low budget indie flick opens with a Ouija game being played at a remote cabin by two young girls (Kaylee King and Tori Carew) and of course, it goes predictably awry. Two years later pretty co-ed Blake (Rachael Hevrin) rents that same remote cabin to get away from it all. Unknown to the Blake, she’s not alone in her spooky getaway spot, add to that the house Blake recently moved into with her mother (Deborah Kay Hooker) and sister Shaine (Grace Powell) is supposedly haunted, too and Shaine is alone there! Poor Blake is surrounded by danger from both within and without, as not only is there a presence inside the cabin, but someone close to her is not what they pretend to be. This girl has no luck!

Flick is written and directed by Brian Childs, who makes a good effort and seems to have a love for this type of movie. He gets the camera angles and mood right on a technical level, and while he overuses the colored lighting that is currently popular with filmmakers, he does accomplish some spooky moments. Leading lady Rachael Hevrin is very pretty and has a really nice girl-next-door presence, which makes her a good final girl. It was also interesting that Childs sets up double trouble for his heroine as there is definitely a dangerous supernatural element here and a threat from the real world, as so-called “friends” conspire against her. Drawbacks are, the dialogue scenes are a little flat, some of the paranormal stuff is very familiar and did we need both locations to be haunted AND having a plot convenience that has the hauntings collide at Blake’s rental? Also, the ghost in the opening Ouija scene is a male named Raymond, so why is the spirit stalking Blake an axe wielding woman?…and if it’s a ghost, why does she have corporeal attributes like being injured, or bleeding when Blake fights back? Was she actually a living person and I missed something? She’s billed as “Blood Splattered Ghost” in the credits. Anyway, it gets a bit convoluted and some of the conveniences are bit of a stretch. Did we need two hauntings and a betrayal? A rookie director adding a few too many elements in his supernatural soup, perhaps? Also, the real world threat looming in the shadows for Blake isn’t as convincingly as it should be. Blake doesn’t seem like a stupid girl and is quite resilient, so would she be that oblivious to the true nature of her “friend” Chloe (Ella Taylor)?

Overall, it’s still a decent effort from a first time feature filmmaker. And Childs could deliver solidly once he gets more experience under his belt and reigns in his stories somewhat. We do get a leading lady who does make an impression as the flick’s final girl and who we want to see more of. Cool to see filmmakers getting their flicks made!

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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