BARE BONES: DOLEMITE IS MY NAME (2019)

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DOLEMITE IS MY NAME (2019)

Flick is a comedy/biography of 70s blaxploitation film legend and “Godfather of Rap” Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy). It shows his beginnings as a frustrated singer/comedian working in a record store. Takes us to his creation of the Dolemite character, which starts out as a foul mouthed stand-up comedy act. After gaining some popularity and momentum, Rudy assembles a motley cast and crew, to bring Dolemite to the big screen. The rest is cult classic cinema history.

Flick is directed by Craig Brewer, from a script by Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander and is a very entertaining movie. The filmmakers know to have a fun time with Moore’s underdog story without making fun of it. They mix just the right amount of humor and drama as Ray “borrows” material from some of the local street folk in the neighborhood and turns it, first, into raunchy comedy gold, and later into exploitation film history. The Netflix Original is made all the more enjoyable by a great 70s flavor and a wonderful performance by a legend himself, Eddie Murphy, playing Moore. We get an oddball selection of characters in support of Moore and the cast portraying them also shine, with Craig Robinson and Mike Epps as Rudy’s friends Ben and Jimmy, Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Lady Reed, Keegan-Michael Key as Dolemite film writer Jerry Jones and a delightful Wesley Snipes as the film’s director/co-star D’Urville Martin. It’s a really fun look at an exploitation legend and his rise to cult stardom, as well as, a triumphant return form by Eddie Murphy.

PERSONAL NOTE: I had the pleasure of meeting Rudy Ray Moore at the Chiller Theater convention here in New Jersey in the 90s. Despite his foul-mouthed, tough guy persona, he was a vey sweet, kind and humble man and I feel fortunate for having met this cult icon. -MZNJ

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES DEC 27-29

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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. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” $72 Million

2. “Jumanji: The Next Level” $35.3 Million

3. “Little Women” $16.52 Million

4. “Frozen II” $16.5 Million

5. “Spies In Disguise” $13.2 Million

6. “Knives Out” $9.7 Million

7. “Uncut Gems” $9.5 Million

8. “Cats” $4.8 Million

9. “Bombshell” $4.7 Million

10. “Richard Jewell” $3 Million

 

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S BEST/FAVORITE HORROR FLICKS of 2019!

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Pretty Harper (Katie Stevens) finds out some Halloween haunts are a bit too intense in Haunt.

 

It’s time to look back at the past year and see what horror flicks left an impression. There was an eclectic and diverse selection this year and there were some solid mainstream horror offerings, as there were some really effective indies. So, without further ado, here are my ten best/favorite horrors of 2019!

…and a couple of honorable mentions that deserve a shout out, too!

(NOTE: There are a few titles here initially released in 2018 at festivals or limited theatrical release, but I did not catch up to them till VOD or home media in 2019 and felt it unfair not to include them!-MZNJ)

(To get to our reviews of these titles use the search engine at the top of the page!)

TOP TEN

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

 

 

College co-ed Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) is trapped during a hurricane in a flooded house full of gators in Crawl.

-MonsterZero NJ

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES DEC 20-22

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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. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” $175.5 Million

2. “Jumanji: The Next Level” $26.1 Million

3. “Frozen II” $12.3 Million

4. “Cats” $6.5 Million

5. “Knives Out” $6.1 Million

6. “Bombshell” $5 Million

7. “Richard Jewell” $2.6 Million

8. “Queen & Slim” $1.85 million

9. “Black Christmas” $1.8 Million

10. “Ford v Ferarri” $1.8 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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REVIEW: STAR WARS-THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (2019)

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STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (2019)

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

The Rise of Skywalker is the ninth and supposedly final chapter in the Star Wars saga, or at least the Skywalker family involvement in it. It takes place a year after The Last Jedi with the galaxy horrified at a signal sent out claiming to be that of the Emperor himself, Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). The Sith lord has amassed a fleet of Star Destroyers, all with Death Star-like cannons and plans to take over the galaxy once and for all. Now Rey (Daisy Ridley) must bring to bare all her Jedi powers and find a Sith device that will lead the rebels to where Palpatine and his doomsday fleet are hiding, to strike them before they can deploy. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his Knights of Ren are in pursuit and rebellion heroes Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) along with General Organa (Carrie Fisher) and the legendary Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) must somehow unite a galaxy against this overwhelming threat.

This final chapter is written and directed by J.J. Abrams (The Force Awakens, Star Trek) who co-wrote the script with Chris Terrio. As you can tell by the plot synopsis, this is an overloaded mess, but it’s an action-packed and entertaining one. It is still an improvement over the lackluster retread that was The Force Awakens and more fun than the moody Last Jedi. What will really irritate hardcore Star Wars fans is Abrams takes a lot of liberties here with the mythos, giving new force powers whenever he’s written himself into a corner, like Rey having healing powers and Palpatine able to drop fleets of ships out of the sky with his fingertips. We also have yet another doomsday weapon…or fleet of them…that can easily be stopped by blowing something up. Will the Empire ever learn? Speaking of which, when Palpatine re-emerges, the First Order seems to just disappear like a small company being absorbed out of existence in a corporate merger. Suddenly everyone, except for a vengeful Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), seems to now work for The Emperor. The flick also jumps from one place and adventure to another very quickly as Rey tries to find her way to a lair that Palpatine wants her to come to all along. Why not just send her an invite with a nice fruit basket? A lot of it seems to be made up as it goes along, though it’s not an unpleasant ride. First off, we are all pretty endeared to the new characters and Abrams does let us visit the classic characters one more time. Also, there is a lot of spectacular action and it might be the most visually impressive Star Wars flick yet, with so many worlds and characters to visit. It’s a fun 142 minutes, even if you will be scratching your head at times as to where it’s all headed and if you are inflexibly loyal to the classic canon, you might be in for a rough ride. At least the very last scene does sentimentally provide a nice farewell, yet also hints that maybe we haven’t seen the last of Rey, now that her involvement in the Skywalker saga is at an end.

There is a big cast here. Daisy Ridley has really grown into Rey and it would be fun to see her strike out in her own series of adventures now free of this storyline. Ridley is charming and likable and can exude a strength that make her ascension to powerful Jedi believable. Issac and Boyega are good as her rebel buds Poe and Finn and there is a bit of a rivalry between the three that was fun, though underdeveloped. Driver is once again good as the conflicted Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, though his story thread didn’t end with the impact it should have, especially during the very convoluted final confrontation. We get to see Carrie Fisher (unused footage from the previous installments), Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and even Billy Dee Williams again in various incarnations and it was nice to see the classics one more time. If one thing Rise of Skywalker gets right is all the nods to the previous films. We even get some Ewoks. As for new characters, most go underdeveloped and were unnecessary at this point…spin-offs maybe?…but at least Kelly Marie Tran got some better dialogue as Rose and seemed more sturdy in a somewhat abbreviated role. There are also some vocal cameos, see if you can catch them all.

Overall, chapter nine is a bloated mess of a series finale, though one that still manages to dazzle and entertain. The story is convoluted from the beginning and sometimes seems made up as it goes along. It is filled with some spectacular action and eye-popping visuals and it’s final frames are satisfying as a goodbye to this classic series. Now as Rey was one of the best things to come out of this sequel trilogy, maybe she can strike out with her own adventures, the character deserves more attention and Ridley could certainly carry her own flicks. As a whole, this trilogy disappointed and did not give us the send off to the classic characters that we wanted, but there was some spectacular action along the way and we did get some new characters worthy of their own adventures, or at least a Disney streaming series.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 (out of 4) Millenium Falcons.

 

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COOL STUFF: SPOOKIES on BLU-RAY!

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SPOOKIES on BLU-RAY!

Spookies (full review HERE) is an 80s haunted house horror that has been one of the most sought after titles for a decent release, after only being available back in it’s day in bad quality VHS tapes and for years as a bootleg or on Youtube. Now, thanks to the great folks at Vinegar Syndrome, this guilty pleasure is finally available in a special edition 2 disc Blu-ray set. Spookies is not without controversy, as the extras portray. Originally shot as Twisted Souls, the film was taken over by it’s producer who brought in a new director for extensive re-shoots. Was a great movie destroyed by an overzealous producer?…or an un-releasable mess saved by a new director? Without seeing the original cut of Twisted Souls we may never know.

As for the disc itself….

The transfer of this 80s horror rarity is absolutely beautiful. It’s finally shown in it’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, possibly for the first time since it’s brief theatrical release in the 80s. It is over three decades old, so there is some grain in the picture, but the colors are bright and vibrant. The sound is in crisp Dolby Digital and DTS 2.0 and considering it was a low budget 35mm production filmed in the 80s and previously only available on VHS, it probably sounds better than it ever has. This Blu-ray release was initially available with a choice of 2 different slipcovers and a reversible case cover, so, either way, you’ll have both versions of the artwork. The presentation alone is worth having this for.

 

Now on to the generous extras….

The first disc extras include some fun stuff and are also where we see there is still, decades later, animosity between the original cast and crew and producer Michael Lee, along with his replacement writer/director, Genie Joseph. We first see it in comments during the two intros from a 2015 Alamo Drafthouse screening by original co-director, the late Thomas Doran and co-writer Frank Farel. Following that is a Q & A from a 2015 Hudson Horror Show screening with actors Anthony Valbiro, the late Peter Iasillo Jr and production assistant Tom Sciacca. This segment certainly illustrates not only the fond memories of making the project, but the bitterness of the post production events. Rounding out these extras is a fun location featurette at The Jay Estate with Iasillo, an outtakes and bloopers reel, a production still gallery and the theatrical trailer.

The second disc is where the real meat of the Spookies controversy lies. There is a lengthy documentary, Twisted Tale: The Unmaking of Spookies, with the original cast and crew, where we are painted a story of some passionate film nerds wanting to make a horror movie, the journey of its production and of a first time producer/financier interfering and eventually, in their opinion, destroying what they set out to do. As producer/financier Michael Lee and writer/director Genie Joseph could not be found, or refused to take part, we only get one side of the story. Unfortunately, it’s a story filled with bitterness and anger, still brewing three decades later, as Twisted Souls was taken away from it’s makers in post production, after rough cuts failed to satisfy Lee, and the film was turned over to Joseph to “fix” and thus became Spookies. There are also deleted scenes included for the documentary, too. Unmaking is followed by Vipco: The Untold Story, Jason Impey’s documentary about British film pirate turned video nasty distributor, Michael Lee, who was Spookies infamous producer. The documentary features extensive interview footage with the elusive Lee, who is surprisingly candid and unapologetic about his nefarious operations as a movie bootlegger. Was he really the bad guy, or just wanting to make money back on something he thought was unreleasable? Watch both documentaries and draw your own conclusions.

Whether you love Spookies as the curiosity it is, or yearn to see Twisted Souls in it’s intended form, is up to you. Either way, Spookies is finally getting the respect and release it deserves…a release that all flicks like this should get.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

BARE BONES: STAG NIGHT (2008)

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STAG NIGHT (2008)

Stag Night finds a group of bachelor partiers and a couple of strippers in NYC running afoul of a tribe of vicious, cannibalistic homeless people in the subways after hours. Flick is written and directed by Peter A. Dowling and has a group of young antagonists who aren’t particularly likable and therefor we really don’t care what happens to them. Their pursuers are generic snarling savages and don’t have enough of a persona to really generate fear or dread. So, we have a basic by-the-numbers gory horror that fails to generate any thrills, because there is nothing given us to get thrilled about. Many of today’s filmmakers miss the point, horror needs to evoke emotions in it’s audience, just as much as any other type of film. Fear is an emotion and if we care about characters, we are afraid when they are. Flicks like this also need a strong villain to evoke that fear. Gore and mood lighting do not a horror film make. Production value is decent and the locations and gore FX are effective, but that’s about it. Very routine despite an amusing premise. Stars Kip Pardue, Vinessa Shaw, Sarah Barrand, Breckin Meyer, Karl Geary and martial artist/actor Scott Adkins.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER (1965)

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FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER (1965)

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

There has been an atomic war on Mars and the planet is devastated. To save her race, the only surviving woman, the beautiful but sinister Princess Marcuzan (Marilyn Hanold), has come to Earth with her henchman, Dr. Nadir (Lou Cutell) to kidnap beautiful young women to mate with the remaining Martian men. During their visit, they shoot down an exploratory rocket carrying cyborg astronaut Col. Frank Saunders (Robert Reilly), who is a mix of body parts and computer chips. “Frank” is damaged and begins a killing spree upon crash landing in Puerto Rico….still with me? Obviously these two plots will collide leading to a showdown with Frank and the Martian’s mutant pet monster, Mull (Bruce Glover).

This cheesy 1965 sci-fi/horror definitely gets points for coming up with a hilariously ludicrous plot and taking it with dead seriousness. It took three writers, John Rodenbeck, R. H. W. Dillard and George Garrett, to come up with this nonsense and it’s directed with giggle-inducing deadpan by Robert Gaffney. We have pointy eared Martians with visible bald caps kidnapping bikini clad babes, while Frank murders the locals looking like he fell asleep at a frat party and they glued transistor radio parts to his face with melted wax. As for his opponent, Mull simply looks like a bunch of Halloween costumes torn apart and then re-sewn together without much of a game plan. These two collide when Frank’s creator Dr. Adam Steele (Return of the Living Dead‘s James Karen) finally tracks down his errant creation and gets him somewhat functional again. This sets up the climatic confrontation as pretty heroine Karen Grant (Nancy Marshall) becomes one of the wannabe Martian mail order brides and Doc, Frank and the military go on the offensive. If Mars thinks they can have our bikini babes, they’ve got another thing coming! There is plenty of rock n roll on the soundtrack, along with sets, costumes and ray guns that would make Ed Wood proud. Add in some military and NASA stock footage and you got yourself a movie! This isn’t the only flick during the 50s and 60s to feature aliens wanting to mate with Earth women and one does wonder what was up with that. It might be the only flick to feature a NASA that has gotten into the grave robbing business to build an elite line of cyborg astronauts. It is morbidly economical and practical! Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster is a lot of 60s B-movie fun with most of the entertainment coming unintentionally and hilariously.

With all the goofy dialogue and the simply lunacy of the plot itself, can one really fault the actors for this flick’s high unintentional laugh factor? James Karen is sold as the hero here, despite the fact that he is dabbling in creating astronauts out of spare body and and radio parts. Nancy Marshall is a pretty and perky heroine, but as in most of this era’s flicks, Karen is pretty much just a damsel in distress. Robert Reilly as Frank isn’t asked to do much but wander around looking dazed with what looks like painful make-up on his face. He does that fine. Lou Cutell (most famous for playing Amazing Larry in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure) is disturbing, in a creepy uncle kind of way, as Dr. Nadir and pretty Marilyn Hanold just gets to act all bargain basement Maleficent in her silly Martian headdress. Performance of the film goes to the uncredited military guy receiving Dr. Steele’s frantic phone call about an alien invasion. The director’s brother-in-law maybe?

Overall, this is a cheesy fun B-movie that is a good of example of the type of low budget drive-in features that were made back in the 50s and 60s. It’s cheap, silly and fills it’s soundtrack with rock n roll music, as much as, it’s filled with girls in bikinis. Not hard to figure out who their target audience was. They don’t make them like this anymore.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Dr. Nadirs looking quite pleased with himself.

 

 

 

 

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES DEC 13-15

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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. “Jumanji: The Next Level” $60.1 Million

2. “Frozen II” $19.1 Million

3. “Knives Out” $9.25 Million

4. “Richard Jewell” $5 Million

5. “Black Christmas” $4.4 Million

6. “Ford v Ferarri” $4.1 Million

7. “Queen & Slim” $3.6 million

8. “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” $3.35 Million

9. “Dark Waters” $2 Million

10. “21 Bridges” $1.2 Million

source: Box Office Mojo

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