TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SLAVE GIRLS FROM BEYOND INFINITY (1987)

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SLAVE GIRLS FROM BEYOND INFINITY (1987)

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Full Moon Pictures 1987 release is B-movie exploitation to the core. Despite the possibilities evoked by one of the best exploitation flick titles ever, it’s actually just a science fiction retelling of The Most Dangerous Game. It finds shapely space slave girls Daria (80s B-movie queen Elizabeth Kaitan) and Tisa (Cindy Beal) escaping captivity in their animal skin bikinis and crash landing on a remote planet. This savage planet is home to the mysterious Zed (Don Scribner ) and his androids, who warmly welcome the girls into Zed’s castle. Soon the two find out that Zed’s hospitality is a smoke screen and that he is a big game hunter. Worse still, they, along with stranded siblings Rik (Carl Horner) and Shala (scream queen Brinke Stevens), are his next intended prey. Can these scantily clad space vixens outwit the diabolical hunter and beat him at his own deadly game?

Low budget flick is written and directed by Ken Dixon with a definite Roger Corman-esque flair. It has three beautiful ladies as it’s leads and when they are not bearing their natural charms, they are as scantily clad as possible. The FX are delightfully cheesy, there is some bloodshed and we have our lovely ladies prancing around the alien jungle bearing laser cannons and plenty of skin. It’s all done tongue in cheek and while the actors play the material seriously, we have a pair of bickering androids (Kirk Graves and Randoph Roehbling) to remind us it’s all in fun. There is a rubber monster/cyborg (Fred Tate) lurking in the jungle for added peril and our damsels find themselves in distress as often as in firefights with the villainous Zed. It has all your exploitation movie needs, including sex, nudity, action, violence, perils, escapes and a touch of bondage to add a little kink to the proceedings. It movies quickly at an economical 80 minutes, giving us little time to think about just how silly it all is.

There are a couple of things that hold this flick back from firing it’s B-movie laser blasters on full. The acting is a bit flat, though Kaitan tries hard to give her Daria some fire, and Scriber’s Zed is a dull, pontificating villain. The flick is a lot of B-movie entertainment, but would have been even better with a villain who was stronger, or simply a lot more fun. Comments could be made about the sets, FX and costumes, but the resulting cheese factor adds to the overall B-movie appeal. A happy accident there.

In conclusion, this is an amusing exploitation flick that skates very close to Roger Corman territory. It’s the type of film he would have made and it’s a surprise that he didn’t come up with it first. Writer/director Ken Dixon has fun with his premise and delivers the exploitation goods proudly. Livelier performances, especially from it’s bland villain, would have made this a real blast, but our leading ladies do try hard and appear to be having a good time romping around in little or less. Regarded as a bit of a cult classic all these years later and for fans of this type of stuff, it succeeds more than it fails. The type of flick they don’t make anymore.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity.

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: BELZEBUTH (2017)

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BELZEBUTH (2017)

Mexican horror opens with a massacre in a hospital maternity ward where police detective Emmanuel Ritter (Joaquín Cosío) loses his infant son. Five years later, he is given a case of a similar massacre at a school…one right out of today’s headlines. Aside from the painful similarities, Ritter doesn’t see a connection till Vatican paranormal expert Ivan Franco (Tate Ellington) arrives. Franco warns Ritter these killing may be the work of rogue priest Vasilio Canetti (Tobin Bell) and an ancient demonic presence. At first Ritter is skeptical, but soon his eyes are opened to things he’s never imagined, especially when he finds out the reason all these innocent children are being slaughtered.

Film is effectively directed by Emilio Portes from a plot heavy script by he and Luis Carlos Fuentes. There is a lot going on, but the film has some spooky and intense moments, especially the shocking maternity ward scene which sets the tone. The flick has biblical implications, some interesting plot twists and some very familiar demonic possession tropes, but uses them effectively for the most part. It is a bit overlong, but the cast is good and Portes has a visual style that works well with the horror elements. There is some graphic violence which has impact and Portes uses his Mexican locations atmospherically. Even the traditional exorcism is effective enough, despite the familiarity. An entertaining horror, even if a bit cliché heavy. Also stars Liam Villa as Isa, a little boy who is the focus of the demon’s attention and Yunuen Pardo as his mother.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES NOV 22-24

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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. “Frozen II” $127 Million

2. “Ford v Ferarri” $16 Million

3. “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” $13.5 Million

4. “21 Bridges” $9.3 Million

5. “Midway” $4.7 Million

6. “Playing With Fire” $4.6 Million

7. “The Good Liar” $3.4 Million

8. “Charlies Angels” $3.2 Million

9. “Last Christmas” $3 Million

10. “Joker” $2.8 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DOCTOR MORDRID (1992)

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DOCTOR MORDRID (1992)

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

Full Moon flick is a complete rip-off of the Doctor Strange comic book character, though predating the hit MCU film by almost twenty-five years. It tells of modern day sorcerer Anton Mordrid (Jeffrey Combs) who teams up with pretty police occult specialist Samantha Hunt (Yvette Nipar) to battle an evil wizard named Kabal (Brian Thompson). Kabal plans to unleash Hell on Earth and Mordrid plans to stop him.

Rip-off or not, amusing comic book style flick is written by frequent Full Moon scribe C. Courtney Joyner and directed by the father and son team of Albert and Charles Band. It’s a direct to DVD feature and looks more like a TV show than a movie. At only 74 minutes it feels more like a TV show, too, one that never got past the pilot episode. Still, it is fun and tries hard, even if it’s inspiration is far too obvious. The FX are cheesy, though there is some stop motion animation from the late, great David Allen. With such a short running time, the simple story moves along fairly quickly and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. The low budget deprives it of any real action sequences, other than the climactic throw-down, which is a fun scene at a museum complete with battling stop motion animated dinosaur skeletons.

The small cast get the material and take it serious enough. Combs is now a horror movie legend and here he gets to have a bit of fun as superhero type. He’s charming and does exude intelligence and power, which makes his Doctor Strange lite a fun character. Yvette Nipar is the smart and sassy Samantha and she isn’t given much to do, but at least is a strong willed heroine, even if only a second banana to Mordrid. Thompson is a fine enough villain as the evil Kabal. He looks like an 80s hair metal band member and has the appropriate swagger of a powerful being bent on world domination…at least one in a B movie like this. Supporting players are Jay Acovone as a hard nosed police detective, with Keith Coulouris and actress/stuntwoman Julie Michaels as Kabal’s minions.

In conclusion, this may be a way too obvious rip-off of a classic Marvel character, but it’s not all that bad. It is one of the better Full Moon direct to DVD productions and gives Combs a chance to have a little fun playing a hero type. The cast and filmmakers get the tone right for this kind of thing and it’s almost too bad budget restraints keep it from delivering some punchier action and more fitting FX. Some nostalgia also adds some fun, as it is from the early 90s, so, it still has a hint of 80s in it’s tone. Completely derivative, but still a good time. 

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) bargain basement sorcerers.

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: FEAST OF THE SEVEN FISHES (2018)

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FEAST OF THE SEVEN FISHES (2018)

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Holiday flick takes place in 1983 in a predominately Italian working-class area of Pennsylvania. It follows aspiring artist Tony (Skyler Gisondo) as he has just broken up with girlfriend Katie (Addison Timlin) and his family is preparing for the annual Christmas Eve “Feast of the Seven Fishes”, an Italian Catholic tradition. When hanging out one night with friends Angelo (Andrew Schultz) and Sarah (Jessica Darrow), Tony is introduced to Beth, a Protestant college girl from the wealthier part of town. Tony and Beth start to fall for each other and he invites her over for the Christmas Eve feast. With his wacky Catholic family, Katie wanting him back and Beth’s mother (Lisa Velten-Smith) not liking her hanging out on the wrong side of the tracks, will these two ever find holiday romance?

Holiday romantic comedy is filled with old-school charm thanks to writer/director Robert Tinnell knowing to downplay the over-the-top bombasity that ruins most holiday flicks. The film has loads of atmosphere, both for the Yuletide season and from being steeped in old-fashioned Italian tradition. The 1983 setting adds to the charm, but Tanell never lets it become the focus over his well-written characters. Fishes follows many traditions of holiday romantic comedies, such as two people from different worlds meeting on a special night, yet avoids the clichés and overblown melodrama of the bigger Hollywood holiday flicks. That’s what makes this work so well, it’s subtle presentation of it’s story. It seems far more real and far less fabricated than it’s big studio counterparts, which prefer big overcooked set pieces to the down-to-earth human interaction that we get here. It feels like you’re watching real people and not something manufactured. The characters themselves are traditional, yet not stereotypes and the cast wonderfully fill the roles of real people types, despite playing familiar/classic roles.

As for that cast, it’s what really makes this movie fire on all Yule logs. Skyler Gisondo leads an excellent ensemble of actors. He’s likable, charming, but very understated. A very down to earth performance that makes Tony very realistic and endearing. Madison Iseman once again proves she’s an actress to keep an eye on. She makes Beth far more than the stereotypical rich girl that she could have been. Instead we get a young woman who wants to live her life her way. She’s sweet and very likable and she and Gisondo have some really nice subtle chemistry that makes their romance down-to-earth and relatable. Addison Timlin is also good as Katie. Another role that could have been cliché, but script and actress make you feel sympathy for a young woman who hasn’t quite found herself, or her happiness, yet. We like Katie and hope she does find what she’s looking for someday. Supporting cast is very impressive. We get veteran Paul Ben-Victor as Johnny, the host of the feast and a man who will defend his baccala to the end. Lynn Cohen is wonderful as Tony’s old-school Catholic grandmother who, at first, doesn’t approve of Protestant Beth. Again, a character avoiding stereotype with some subtlety and depth. Nonnie might surprise you. Rounding out are flavorful performances from Ray Abruzzo as Uncle Carmine, the legendary Joe Pantoliano as Uncle Frankie, Jessica Darrow as Sarah, Andrew Shultz as Angelo and Josh Helman () as Juke. A great cast.

In conclusion this is a wonderfully charming and refreshingly subtle and atmospheric Christmas romance. It’s steeped in the flavor of old school tradition and contains classic characters that avoid being stereotypes, thanks to down-to-earth portrayals and a heartfelt script. Writer/director Robert Tinnell avoids the overblown dramatics and bombastic set pieces that weigh down the big budget Hollywood holiday fare, to give us an old-fashioned Christmas tale of two kids from opposite sides of town meeting and falling in love under the glow of Christmas lights and some salty baccala. An absolute delight and maybe a new Christmas classic if given the attention it deserves!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) Christmas trees.

 

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BARE BONES: ANTRUM-THE DEADLIEST FILM EVER MADE (2018)

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ANTRUM: THE DEADLIEST FILM EVER MADE (2018)

Flick starts out as a faux documentary about a 70s horror film named Antrum, which supposedly has caused the deaths of dozens of people. After a few minutes of sullen and serious interviewees describing how the film has claimed lives and has now been banned, we are treated to the film itself. Antrum tells the tale of young Nathan (Rowan Smyth) whose dog has died and because she bit him once, he’s convinced she’s gone to Hell. His older sister Oralee (Nicole Tompkins) concocts a plan to put his mind at ease and takes him camping in a forest she tells him is the spot where the Devil landed when he fell from Heaven. She tells him here they can dig a hole through the layers of Hell and rescue his dog’s soul. Tall tale or not, Hell is exactly what the siblings get.

Homage to 70s demonic horrors with a nod towards found footage is directed by David Amito and Michael Laicini from Amito’s script. The intent seems legit and it’s heart appears to be in the right place, but the idea of a film that kills or has been banned for causing violence has been done before in flicks like Midnight Movie, Hills Run Red, not to mention John Carpenter’s Masters of Horror episode Cigarette Burns. Aside from some atmosphere, the film itself is kinda dull, though does capture the look and feel of a low budget 70s horror. The cast are definitely amateurs, though Nicole Tompkins does a good job carrying most of the movie on her shoulders. It’s a bit talky and nothing much happens aside from a last act encounter with some perverted, Satan worshipping rednecks, which makes one scratch their heads more than hide their eyes. There are some subliminal images and demonic symbols peppered throughout the flick, but they actually detract from the movie far more than add any atmosphere or creepiness. They’re too random to be effective, they’re distracting and give the impression of being more like an afterthought when the film didn’t turn out scary enough. Overall, the effort here can be appreciated, but the result is definitely disappointing, especially considering the expectations built up by it’s tagline.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES NOV 15-17

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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. “Ford v Ferarri” $31 Million

2. “Midway” $8.75 Million

3. “Charlies Angels” $8.6 Million

4. “Playing With Fire” $8.55 Million

5. “Last Christmas” $6.7 Million

6. “Doctor Sleep” $6.2 Million

7. “The Good Liar” $5.65 Million

8. “Joker” $5.6 Million

9. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” $5.2 Million

10. “Harriet” $4.8 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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IT CAME FROM ASIAN CINEMA: SWEET HOME (1989)

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SWEET HOME (1989)

Hard to find haunted house flick has TV producer Kazuo Hoshino (Shingo Yamashiro) bringing a crew to the supposedly haunted Mamiya mansion that has been sealed for thirty years. It was the home of famed artist Ichirō Mamiya and Kazuo believes his final works rest inside. Along for the production are his daughter Emi (Nokko), reporter Asuka (Fukumi Kuroda), cinematographer Ryō Taguchi (Ichiro Furutachi) and Akiko Hayakawa (Nobuko Miyamoto) his producer whom he has feelings for. Once inside they find that all the rumors are horribly true as a terrible incident decades earlier has left a vengeful spirit lurking inside the mansion.

Film is written and directed very effectively by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. All the haunted house traditions are present with the mansion itself being a very spooky and deserted place. There is a tragic backstory to give our haunting it’s purpose and a group of individuals who refuse to believe the folklore of the house, until it’s too late. Stormy nights, grotesque phantoms and some gory deaths are presented in a very entertaining fashion with Kiyoshi Kurosawa giving us just enough time to get to know the characters before the spooks hit the fan. It even has an old gas station attendant, Yamamura (producer Jûzô Itami), to give the traditional warnings and exposition. It’s a lot of spooky and gruesome fun and the make-up effects are not only nostalgically practical, it was the 80s after all, but done by make-up effects legend Dick Smith. When we finally see Lady Mamiya’s spirit in full view, it doesn’t disappoint. There are some chills, thrills, some blood spilled and a very exciting and suspenseful climax, as our survivors face the angry spirit head-on. You even need to watch through the credits for something extra. It’s a very entertaining haunted house flick that can stand on it’s own up against flicks like Poltergeist which set a standard in the 80s. Atmospherically directed, the house setting itself is great and there is just enough humor to make it fun without offsetting the scares. Despite being a familiar tale, the movie has it’s own creepy identity and likable characters to fear for.

As those characters, we have a solid cast. Yamashiro is good as Hoshino. He’s a likable guy and avoids the arrogance most characters like this carry. His intentions are good. Popstar Nokko is endearing as Hoshino’s teen daughter Emi. She’s rebellious, though not annoying and serves as a damsel in distress in the final act. Nobuko Miyamoto is widower Hoshino’s producer. A pretty woman he has feelings for and a strong heroine when all Hell breaks loose. Ichiro Furutachi and Fukumi Kuroda are fine in their roles, though they serve more as body count. Rounding out is producer Jûzô Itami, who is good in the classic role as Yamamura. An efficient and likable cast.

In conclusion, this flick desperately needs a blu-ray release! It was spooky, gory fun and had a likable group of characters ignoring the classic warnings to suffer the consequences. There were some great practical make-up FX from the late, great Dick Smith and a very creepy house where it’s paranormal action takes place. A very solid and old fashioned haunted house flick from Japan.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 (out of 4) spooks

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: 47 METERS DOWN-UNCAGED (2019)

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47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED (2019)

Sequel to the fun Mandy Moore vs sharks epic, 47 Meters Down is basically Jaws meets The Descent and takes place in Yucatán, Mexico. A group of four pretty girls, Mia (Sophie Nélisse), Sasha (Corinne Foxx, daughter of Jamie Foxx), Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Sly’s daughter, Sistine Stallone) decide to forgo the boat tour they are supposed to be on and go scuba diving in a flooded underground Mayan temple Mia’s dad (John Corbett) is exploring. Once the four get inside, they become trapped and are pursued by the blind, albino great white sharks that live inside the temple catacombs.

Directed by Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down, Strangers: Prey at Night) from a script he co-wrote with Ernest Riera, it’s a silly but fun sequel. Uncaged takes itself just serious enough and plays a lot like Neil Marshall’s chiller with our scantily clad heroines using both silence and sound to evade the great whites, who are blind due to living in darkness all this time. It’s entertaining nonsense as our ladies seek to escape when accidentally sealed in and are running out of air. The leading ladies are charming, pretty and likable enough, so we don’t especially want to see them become shark food and the flick does try to keep us in suspense as to if and when any of our adorable ladies will become dinner. This is a shark flick after all and the movie does provide some gruesome chow downs. Other divers are present to serve as food for our predators and one character appears and then is eaten so fast, there is no question as to why they were even there, except for the obvious reason of a great white happy meal. There are also some amusing conveniences, too, as characters who can be of any assistance in the girl’s escape are devoured at just the right crucial moments. Not as gripping as the surprisingly solid thriller the first flick was, but still mindless entertainment if you let it be and the last act is pretty much non-stop action. Silly and cliché, but a fun time.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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REVIEW: JOKER (2019)

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JOKER (2019)

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

Joker is a daring and provocative origin story from DC tracing the beginnings of one of the greatest comic book villains of all time, back to one Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix). Fleck is a man with issues of mental illness who lives with his mother, Penny (Frances Conroy), goes to therapy and works as a clown at a low level entertainment company. Arthur has dreams of being a stand-up comedian and delusions of grandeur, like being on the Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) Show. Arthur has a hard life and is picked on and beaten up by the thugs in a lawless Gotham City. Things start to change for Arthur, both good and bad, when he uses a gun he’s given by a coworker to defend himself, against three young and abusive Wall Street types on the subway. An uprising of the haves vs the have-nots ignites in Gotham over the incident, with clown faces as the symbol of those deprived of a better life. This fuels Arthur’s inner rage and delusional nature and starts him on the road to becoming the clown prince of crime we all know.

Joker is exceptionally directed by Todd Phillips and written by he and Scott SIlver and is a disturbing and dark take on the origins of a super villain. Phillips makes the movie all the more effective by keeping it grounded and the lack of an over-the-top comic book style, makes the portrayal more realistic, thus relatable, and intense. Gotham is not a Blade Runner-esque city, but a New York of the early 80s with crime, decadence and filth at an all-time high. Arthur is disturbed as it is, but is constantly pushed, picked on and preyed upon by Gotham’s dirty underbelly and apathetic elite. Arthur’s mental illness is treated head on by the script and we do feel bad for him as he grew up in an environment with a single mother with her own mental issues, along with her abusive boyfriends. The city of Gotham pushes him till he snaps and a madman is created. Fans fear not, as the links to the Dark Knight are there. Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen) is running for mayor and not only is Arthur told the delusion by his mother that he is Wayne’s illegitimate son, he also meets young Bruce (Dante Pereira-Olson) when he tries to talk to his “dad” at Wayne Manor. The death of Bruce’s parents is also part of the goings on and signals what is to come for both young Mr. Wayne and Arthur who comes to want to be known only as “Joker”. It adds up to a dark and fascinating look at abuse, mental illness and how it drives one meek fellow to becoming a violent and quite unhinged psychopath. It’s a unique take on one of the comics greatest villains and an intense and sometimes shocking comic book themed film. Be warned, there is graphic violence and it is treated without humor unlike in the R-rated Deadpool flicks.

Joaquin Phoenix is simply brilliant as Arthur Fleck/Joker. From his mannerisms, body movements and overall performance he is riveting as first a pathetic and sad man trying to exist in a world completely unsympathetic to his mental issues, to a man who finally finds his smile committing horrific acts. It is a career defining performance from an actor already known for his eclectic performances. Simply a brilliant portrayal. De Niro is good as talk show host Murray Franklin who sees footage of Arthur’s terrible stand-up and wants to exploit him for laughs. Zazie Beetz is sweet as his single mom neighbor whom Arthur’s forms a delusional attachment to. Brett Cullen is solid as Thomas Wayne, a man who the film boldly portrays as a bit of a rich a-hole, when he is far more saintly in other portrayals. The various supporting players including Frances Conroy as Arthur’s ill and fading mom Penny, are all top notch. A great cast!

In conclusion this is a powerful film whose bold and daring portrayal of a legendary comic book character’s beginnings makes it one of the most unique comic book themed films thus far. It features a masterful performance by it’s leading man and by using a grounded approach to the material, makes it far more real and thus ultimately frightening. Men like Arthur Fleck do exist outside the comic books. A great movie. One of the best of the year!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 (out of 4) clown masks.

 

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