TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ALIEN CONTAMINATION (1980)

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ALIEN CONTAMINATION aka CONTAMINATION (1980)

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Italian filmmaker Luigi Cozzi is most known for his cheesy but colorful Star Wars rip-off Starcrash, and his Hercules films with Lou Ferrigno, but he also entered Alien territory with this 1980 sci-fi gorefest. Alien Contamination, or simply, Contamination finds an abandoned cargo ship drifting into New York harbor. When the ship is boarded, authorities find a dead crew and coffee cases filled with large avocado looking eggs. Worse still, when the eggs are ruptured, they spew a green fluid which causes the human body to literally explode into bloody pieces. New York Police Lieutenant Tony Aris (Marino Masé) investigates with military scientist Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau) and finds a conspiracy to destroy all life on earth involving Martians, allegedly dead astronauts and a Columbian coffee plantation.

Flick is written and directed by Cozzi and can be quite gruesome, but also unintentionally funny at times. It’s a silly flick that takes itself very seriously. The dialog is laughably bad, especially Lt. Aris’s hilarious “New York Cop”  dialog, making him sound like he’s from a grade Z 1940s detective movie. Another rib-tickling example of the Shakespearian prose is Stella and alcoholic ex-astronaut Hubbard’s (Ian McCulloch) exchange about his male proficiency. Let’s stay professional, folks! The pace is quite pedestrian and there are only spurts of bloody action before the climax. Even with the Earth’s entire population at stake, the characters never display any sense of urgency. The gore effects are plentiful and one of the best things about the flick. The eggs are quite rubbery looking, although they do make a creepy moaning sound as they pulsate so, they are effective. When our alien beastie is finally revealed at the climax it is a delightfully 1950s-ish tentacled cyclops that would be at home in any Roger Corman production. At least we have a cool electronic score by Goblin and the flick is mercifully short at only 82 minutes. Despite it’s shortcomings, if watched in the right mindset, it can be fun.

The cast won’t win any awards. Marleau is quite wooden as Stella and despite being a pretty actress, she generates no sex appeal even with a last act romantic interlude with Aris. As Aris, Masé is amusing with his heavy New York accent and ridiculous cop dialog. Zombie and Zombie Holocaust veteran Ian McCulloch plays drunken and disgraced astronaut, Commander Hubbard, who was laughed out of a job for claiming to have seen the eggs on Mars. Ironically, he was right all along. Rounding out the main cast is Siegfried Rauch as the alien-controlled villain, former astronaut Hamilton. He’s a bland bad guy and would be far better at home in a low level James Bond rip-off.

Overall, this a bad flick that can be fun when it’s badness is appreciated in the right way. It’s a shameless rip-off of parts of Alien with a hint of bad James Bond movie mixed in. There is awful dialog, wooden acting, terrible dubbing and lots of rubbery SPFX to keep one amused. It also has a lot of gore and an electronic score by legendary band Goblin (Romero’s Dawn of the Dead). With a few brews and watched in the right way, it can be a fun 80+ minutes of Italian gore nonsense.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) cheesy alien eggs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: THE LAST CIRCUS (2011)

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THE LAST CIRCUS (2011)

The Last Circus is the bizarre and twisted story of Javier (Carlos Areces). All Javier wants is to become a clown like his father (Santiago Segura), who was killed during the Spanish Civil War. The sad and unfunny Javier only finds work as the Sad Clown in a local circus in Franco’s Spain of 1973. Even there, his life falls apart as one tragedy is followed by another, as he falls for Natalia (Carolina Bang), the acrobat girlfriend of the violent and abusive star clown Sergio (Antonio de la Torre).

Director and writer Alex de la Iglesia (the cult classic Acción Mutante) weaves this darkly humorous and sometimes extremely violent tale with a very unique and sometimes stunning visual style. He knows how to use his camera and visuals to maximum effect. He also gets good performances out of his cast. What he falls short in, is knowing when enough is enough and cutting his audience a break. All the depressing tragic moments and gory interludes start to get tiresome, about an hour in and by the time the credits role, the audience is too weary to really care how the story ends. On that note, let’s just say not to expect a fairy tale ending, after all you’ve sat through. There is a lot to like about Circus and de la Iglesia’s filming style, but it’s the overall heavy-handedness of his story telling that wears one out. A unique and interesting, if not flawed film.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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REVIEW: READY OR NOT (2019)

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READY OR NOT (2019)

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Whether it be 1932’s The Most Dangerous Game or John Woo’s 1993 Hard Target, the concept of rich people hunting common folks for sport, or otherwise, is nothing new. Ready or Not finds pretty Grace (Samara Weaving) about to marry into the wealthy but eccentric Le Domas family, who have grown rich on games and pro sports. After taking her vows with their son Alex (Mark O’Brien), it’s revealed she must follow tradition and play a game with the family at midnight. The game, chosen from a mysterious box, is hide and seek. What Grace also soon finds out is that she must hide as the family hunts her and that she must be captured and sacrificed before dawn to appease the mysterious Mr. Le Bail, who is responsible for the family’s success. If they don’t, they will all die. Now Grace is in a fight for her very life as she is alone and pursued through the labyrinth-like mansion.

The film is directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who helmed the fun found footage flick Devil’s Due. Ready or Not tries to have a good time with it’s premise, but also seems a bit moderately paced for a chase/hunt flick. The action stops frequently for a movie that needs a sense of urgency and what action there is could have been punchier, as could a few of it’s big moments. It felt like they were holding back from really cutting loose with the mayhem. The script is from Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy who take a familiar story and add some social commentary and a twisted sense of humor, but not really much new. A good deal of that twisted humor falls flat and while the directors try to give it a little spark, the familiarity of the story handcuffs it from being really suspenseful. We know what’s coming and where it’s going. That and the trailers basically featured all the best bits, so it left very little to surprise or amuse…which is not the filmmakers fault, but the marketing. There is some entertaining action and a few tense bits and the film can be amusingly gruesome at times. A few of the jokes do wear out their welcome, such as the constant killing of the help by incompetent family members. A way too convenient character turn gets Grace out of her biggest trouble only to have another character turn put her back in it a few scenes later. Both seems like plot contrivances aside from simply being repetitive. The first is an obvious plot device to get Grace out of a fix when the writers wrote themselves into a corner and the second character turn simply doesn’t make sense happening at such a late point. Occurring at such a late juncture also doesn’t give it any time to resonate and thus it appears to be just there to give the flick one more “WTF?” moment before the climactic ending.

Weaving gives it her all and makes for a solid heroine for us to root for. Grace’s got fire and resilience and becomes a survivor pretty quick. She makes this a lot more worth watching. O’Brien is fairly generic as her conflicted new husband, Alex, while Adam Brody is amusing as his bitter and also conflicted, alcoholic brother, Daniel. Andie MacDowell gives her performance some malice as the one who really wears the pants in the family, Becky with Henry Czerny being fun as her husband, the easily panicked family patriarch Tony. The cast, main and supporting, get the satirical nature of the script and that helps give this some fun.

In conclusion, Ready or Not has it’s moments, but overall is nothing new and could have used a bit more spark and energy. There are some fun bits and it is quite giddy with the bloodshed, but also wasn’t as quite action packed as one expects and some of the big moments lacked the impact they needed. The social satire and twisted humor fall flat more often than they should have and only a plucky Samara Weaving makes it as watchable as it is. Amusing, but not the real blast one hoped for.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) arrow heads.

 

 

 

 

 

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Be warned! Trailer gives away some of the best moments…

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ACTUALS AUG 23-25

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Complete actuals are in for the weekend box office

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

1. “Angel Has Fallen” $21.25 Million

2. “Good Boys” $11.75 Million

3. “Overcomer” $8.2 Million

4. “The Lion King” $8.15 Million

5. “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” $8.1 Million

6. “Ready or Not” $7.55 Million

7. “The Angry Birds Movie 2” $6.4 Million

8. “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” $6 Million

9. “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” $5.2 Million

10. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” $5 million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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COOL STUFF: HALLOWEEN COMES EARLY AT THE JERSEY SHORE!

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 HALLOWEEN COMES EARLY AT THE JERSEY SHORE!

Finally made it down the shore this summer! Better late than never. Even MonsterZero NJ can’t be ghostly white all the time. Stopped into one of my favorite little shops in Point Pleasant Beach NJ, Ambiance! It’s Halloween 🎃 all year round in parts of this great little store, but they are already spreading the All Hallow’s Eve cheer in August with the store in full process of being fully decorated for the spooky season! I took a couple of shots of the work in progress, with the last shot being the skull candle holder I couldn’t leave without!

 

Ambiance is located at 707 Arnold Ave, Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey and you can check out their Facebook page here.

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Ambiance wasn’t the only place gearing up for Halloween! There’s is a charming boutique called The Cauldron and the Cupboard located practically across the street at 638 Arnold Ave, Point Pleasant Beach, NJ. It’s described as a metaphysical supply shop that caters to many different practices and spiritual beliefs. They looked like they were fully decorated and ready, though sadly where not open yet when I was there earlier in the day. Was in their previous location last year. Cool place! Their Facebook page is here.

 

 

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Last but certainly not least, the Jenkinson’s Boardwalk signage was a-buzz with announcements of the upcoming spooky goings on! It’s Halloween 🎃 in August at the Jersey Shore!

 

 

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Don’t worry. I actually did get some sun…

 

 

-MonsterZero NJ

 

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE CORPSE OF ANNA FRITZ (2015)

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THE CORPSE OF ANNA FRITZ (2015) aka EL CADÁVER de ANNA FRITZ

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

Disturbing Spanish thriller is not straight up horror, but has enough elements to qualify, nonetheless. Story finds the world in shock as famous actress Anna Fritz (Alba Ribas) has been found dead at a party and her body taken to an undisclosed hospital. Young morgue attendant Pau (Albert Carbó) works at that hospital and sends pictures of Anna to his friends Javi (Bernat Saumell) and Ivan (Cristian Valencia). The two young men arrive at the scene to get a firsthand look and after some booze and cocaine, things take a disturbing downward spiral. After ogling and groping her body, thug-like Ivan violates Anna’s corpse and then Pau, who has apparently done this before at work, joins in. That is just the beginning of this descent into the evil that men do, as Anna awakens during the rape. Now the three young men have to decide what to do with her, as the pretty actress is obviously alive and able to report their depraved acts…and she is already thought to be dead in the first place.

Unnerving flick is tensely directed by Hèctor Hernández Vicens from a script written by he and Isaac P. Creus. The subject of these degenerate youths violating a corpse in a morgue is disturbing enough, but having the poor woman awaken in the middle of it is even more unsettling. On top of that, these creeps are actually plotting to return her to her state of death to cover up what they’ve done. They don’t even need an alibi, as everyone thinks she’s already dead. It puts our sympathetic lead character in quite the dire situation. Vicens cranks up the tension and isolation as this is a night shift and the morgue is empty and the hospital above, minimally staffed. Anna is alone and still somewhat paralyzed from whatever put her in this state (drugs?) and basically, defenseless. Things can be a bit predictable, as we know that the only character with a straight up conscience, Javi, needs to be removed somehow to keep Anna in peril and being an actress, we know she’ll do her best to use her skills to survive. It’s well done and still involving to watch play out, even if we can see where it is heading at times. It still works.

The cast really helps elevate this small flick. Alba Ribas is very sympathetic as Anna. She plays the victim well, though not completely defenseless, relying on her wits to help her survive the night. The actress goes through a lot over the course of the film and we are rooting for her to somehow get out of this. Cristian Valencia is very good as the brute Ivan. He’s an example of all the wrong doing that men are capable of, with drinking, drugs, necrophilia, murder and cold-bloodedly planning to kill others to cover it up, not to mention dragging Pau along with him. He’s a monster and the actor really makes us hate him. Albert Carbó is good as Pau. Even though he is conflicted about killing Anna and what happens to Javi, he still admits to raping corpses and does violate Anna, so we don’t have much sympathy for him. Bernat Saumell plays Javi well enough to feel sorry for him, when doing the right thing causes him harm. He’s the only one with a moral compass and that sadly doesn’t bode well for him in his current company. With limited screen time, we come to like him, even though we know his wanting to stop things before they go any further will not end well.

In conclusion, this is not a great movie, but still a disturbing and tense one. We have an unsettling series of events getting progressively worse, as two young men give in to some horrible impulses and a young woman may pay the price of keeping their vile acts secret. Director and co-writer Hèctor Hernández Vicens creates tension and a sense of isolation as helpless Anna is all alone with these morally bankrupt young men. The cast perform their roles well and even if it’s a bit predictable, it still works, even if we have an idea of how it’s going to end up. Film is supposedly based somewhat on real life events. Yikes!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) toe tags.

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Be Warned, trailer is graphic. NSFW!

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BARE BONES: MA (2019)

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MA (2019)

Cliché filled thriller finds pretty high school student Maggie (Diana Silvers) moving back to her mother Erica’s (Juliette Lewis) home town after her parents separate. Maggie soon makes friends and when out in pursuit of some liquor to party, they meet lonely Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer). Sue Ann starts to buy them booze and soon invites them to use her basement to party in. As “Ma” gets more and more involved in their lives, her behavior starts to get stranger and stranger. Maggie soon starts to believe their new ‘friend’ has ulterior motives for her hospitality, but what is she up to and why?

Aside from an unsettling performance from veteran Spencer and a solid heroine in Silvers’ Maggie, there isn’t much to say about this flick. It’s a routine and very familiar thriller from writer Scotty Landes and director Tate Taylor, who don’t bring anything new to the stalker/crazy person sub-genres. Ma’s hidden agenda is no surprise, as it is revealed to us, over the course of the film, through flashbacks to Sue Ann’s days in high school and what pushed her over the edge, so to speak. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, plays out exactly as we expect and not portrayed in any way innovative or creative. Aside from good performances from the leads and from supporting cast members Juliette Lewis and Luke Evans, there would be very little to recommend here. The cast, especially Octavia Spencer, deserved better material and we deserved a better movie.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ACTUALS AUG 16-18

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Complete actuals are in for the weekend box office

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

1. “Good Boys” $21.4 Million

2. “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” $14.2 Million

3. “The Lion King” $12.3 Million

4. “The Angry Birds Movie 2” $10.35 Million

5. “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” $10 Million

6. “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” $8.5 Million

7. “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” $8.4 Million

8. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” $7.7 million

9. “The Art of Racing in the Rain” $4.6 Million

10. “Blinded By the Light” $4.3 Million

 

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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REVIEW: GOOD BOYS (2019)

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GOOD BOYS (2019)

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Disappointing coming of age comedy finds three sixth grade buddies Max (Jacob Tremblay), Thor (Brady Noon) and sensitive Lucas (Keith L. Williams) going to a “kissing party” run by the most popular kid in middle school, Soren (Izaac Wang). Max wants to go to finally show his class crush Brixlee (Millie Davis) how he feels, but there’s one problem…none of the the nerdy trio have never kissed a girl before. That is the least of their worries, however, as their path to the biggest party of the school year is blocked by a series of escalating misadventures involving, drugs, sex toys, a drone and two pissed-off college girls named Hannah (Molly Gordon) and Lily (Midori Francis).

The film is lifelessly directed by The Office veteran Gene Stupnitsky from a unimaginative script by he and Lee Eisenberg. It’s a shame because there was potential here for a really funny and heartfelt look at modern day Tweens at that crucial point where they leave childhood behind for the tumultuous teens. The film fails on every level. There are a few sentimental bits in the last act, but overall the film is far more concerned with being as vulgar as possible and by putting these kids in as many inappropriate situations as can be and even with that, it takes the easiest and laziest path. There were a few laughs, but very few and most of the moments involving drugs, internet porn, Thor’s parents’ sex toys and frat house drug dealers are either just uncomfortable or fall flat altogether. This film is a perfect example of the trailer showing the best bits and literally, anything slightly amusing was in the previews. The rest is bland, cliché and sometimes outright dull. Sorry, but having middle school kids doing things in slow motion to gangster rap music does not cleverness make…and is an overused cliché at this point, as well.

Biggest shame is the waste of a good cast. Tremblay, Noon and Williams are an endearing enough trio as the self proclaimed “Bean Bag Boys”. They’re likable nerds, full of mischief and suddenly emerging hormones and it’s sad the script isn’t better for them. They have a good chemistry together and are sadly put through the motions of a series of situations that strive for the lowest common denominators of humor. Also good were Molly Gordon and Midori Francis as college girls Hannah and Lily, two girls the boys cross paths with. All the girls want is to go to the city for a concert and get high, but the boys’ antics shatter their plans and put the girls in hot pursuit. Gordon and Francis work really well together and it would actually be fun to see the characters return in their own flick, with a much better script and director this time. Also good are Will Forte as Max’s dad and Lil Rel Howery and Retta as Lucas’ clueless, divorcing parents.

Despite having a good cast and the platform for a fun story of Tweens growing into their teens, Good Boys and it’s makers take the laziest route possible. It focuses on being vulgar and uncomfortable and forgets to actually be funny and engaging. It wastes a good cast with a series of bland and cliché situations, when it could have done something really funny with more of a story and a little substance beneath the dirty jokes. Worst of all, the trailer truly showed all the best bits, which are few and far between to begin with. If you want a coming of age comedy with intelligence, heart and yet still raunchy and hilariously funny, try Booksmart, a sadly overlooked flick from earlier this year.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 (out of 4) drones

 

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK (2019)

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SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK (2019)

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

Flick is based on the kids books by Alvin Schwartz and opens on Halloween night, 1968 in the small town of Mill Valley, Pennsylvania. Three friends Stella (Zoe Colletti), Auggie (Gabriel Rush), Chuck (Austin Zajur) and new guy in town Ramón (Michael Garza) sneak into the supposedly haunted Bellows house, where Sarah Bellows is said to have poisoned a bunch of children after telling them scary stories. Stella finds and takes Sarah’s story book, which starts to write stories of it’s own, stories which come to life and deal out terrible fates to members of the group. Now the remaining friends must somehow find a way to save themselves, before they become just another scary story to be told in the dark.

The film is directed by André Øvredal (The Autopsy Of Jane Doe) from a script by Dan and Kevin Hageman. That script is based on a story by producer Guillermo del Toro, Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan from Schwartz’s book. As such it’s a well made movie, but one that is not really all that scary, at least not consistently. There are a few spooky moments, but in between there is a lot of tedious and somewhat stale melodrama, as we get a very familiar ‘kids in supernatural peril trying to solve a mystery’ scenario, that we’ve seen so many times before. It’s nothing new and not presented in a fresh or innovative way. It was kinda dull. Maybe those endeared to the stories would find the film’s presentation of the material far more entertaining, but for the uninitiated, it’s very been there, done that. The PG-13 rating keeps things fairly tame, it is based on children’s stories after all, not that a film needs gore to be scary, as the recent Annabelle Comes Home proves. The make-up effects are very well done and the flick looks good, as Øvredal has a good eye, especially when represented by Roman Osin’s cinematography. The cast of young performers all play their roles well, as do the supporting adults. There is some atmosphere, especially in the opening Halloween segments, though it should have stayed set on Halloween night, as it looses some of it’s spookiness, once the story goes past All Hallow’s Eve.

Overall, it’s a well made movie, just not an overly scary one. To those not familiar with the books, the material is nothing we haven’t seen before and there are long stretches of tedium between the spooky parts. It looks good and is well acted by it’s cast, but really didn’t provide the chills the books, or Stephen Gammell’s illustrations for that matter, are famous for. A good horror flick for kids, or adults who scare easily, but hardcore horror fans might find themselves yawning through a lot of it.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) books it’s based on.

 

 

 

 

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