TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WITCHBOARD 2: THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY (1993)

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WITCHBOARD 2: THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY (1993)

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

Flick is Kevin S. Tenney’s sequel to his own 1986 Witchboard, but aside from a ouija board being key to the plot, it is a sequel in name only. Pretty young Paige (Ami Dolenz) has moved into a new apartment only to find a ouija board left behind by the previous owner. Of course she begins to use it and is contacted by the former tenant, a woman named Susan Sidney (Julie Michaels). At first the spirit seems to want help from Paige in solving her murder, but there may be a deeper and far more sinister reason for the spirit’s presence.

Film is written and directed by Tenney, much like the first movie and like that flick is far more fun than scary. It follows the first film’s formula of a woman being contacted by a spirit via a ouija board and the ghost, at first, appearing benign and in need of help. Like the 1986 movie, Paige also has a jerk of a boyfriend (Timothy Gibbs) who we have a hard time liking and our heroine begins to show signs of progressive entrapment, as the sprit slowly takes control. Aside from the basic story elements, though, there seems to be no connection between Paige and Witchboard‘s Linda, nor any shared characters or referenced events. There is little or no suspense or scares, but it is entertaining and there are a few bloody deaths, though no explicit gore or nudity. Paige is a cute and likable heroine, even if her outfit of daisy dukes and cowboy boots doesn’t quite click as an outfit one would dig up a body in the middle of the night in. It does play much like an 80s horror, despite being made in 1993 and that helps with an amusing nostalgia factor. Tenney’s films aren’t known for mustering much intensity, but this flick has a few moments, though a few border on the silly, too, like a scene with a circular saw blade chasing it’s prey.

The cast is small but solid for this type of movie. Fan favorite Ami Dolenz is a good choice for Paige. She cute, sexy and makes an engaging heroine. She’s very likable and gives off a good Nancy Drew vibe as she investigates Susan’s alleged murder. Timothy Gibbs is fine as Paige’s cop ex-boyfriend Mitch, who remains an unlikable jerk till the last act, which makes it hard to root for him when he starts to behave more like a hero. John Gatins is far more likable as the landlords’ photographer son Russel, who takes an interest in Paige and thus her paranormal investigation. Russel’s parents, hippie landlady Elaine and her handyman husband, Jonas are played by SNL legend Laraine Newman and TV actor Christopher Michael Moore, respectively. Actress and stunt woman Julie Michaels (the hottie from the opening scene of Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday) plays the late Susan Sidney in flashback and possession sequences and is effective in the part. Both Dolenz and Newman would work for Tenney again in his Die Hard with college coeds, Demolition University.

This flick doesn’t seem to have garnered the cult classic reputation that the original Witchboard has, though it’s just as amusing and Dolenz makes for a bit more animated a heroine than the slightly wooden Tawny Kitaen. It’s got an 80s vibe, despite it now being 1993, as it would be three more years before Scream would make horror flicks become more self aware and filled with pop culture referencing. It has a few spooky moments, some bloody demises and enough nostalgia to make an entertaining watch.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) planchettes.

 

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BARE BONES: PATCHWORK (2015)

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PATCHWORK (2015)

Horror/comedy finds three women, Jennifer (Tory Stolper), Ellie (Tracey Fairaway) and Madeleine (Maria Blasucci) waking up in a strange operating room. More exactly, the three wake up all inhabiting the same body, which is stitched together from pieces of their own individual bodies. The three flee this nightmarish operating room and back to Jennifer’s apartment to figure things out. Coming to terms with what’s happened and uniting as one, the three women in one Frankenstein-ish body then strike out to find out who did this to them and exact bloody revenge.

Flick is directed by Tyler MacIntyre (Tragedy Girls) from a script by he and Chris Lee Hill. Movie owes a lot to classics and cult classics like, FrankensteinRe-Animator and Frankenhooker, but makes amusing and clever use of the concept that the Frankenstein-like creation holds the conscience of all three women, whose parts make up it’s body. The actresses all do a good job as first a confused trio portraying their inner dialogue and then a united front as they seek vengeance against whomever conducted this horrific experiment. The hunt is a bloody one and MacIntyre has a few tricks up his sleeve with a last act reveal that one of the three girls might not be who she seems. It’s a fun and very gory trip as we follow Jennifer/Ellie/Madeleine on their bloody investigation, leading them back to where the horror all started for a gruesome showdown with some amusing twists. An entertaining comedy horror that makes clever use of the elements inspired by some familiar flicks. Also stars Corey Sorenson as “The Surgeon” and James Phelps as Garrett, a young man with a crush on Jennifer who agrees to help the three.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ESCAPE FROM L.A. (1996)

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ESCAPE FROM L.A. (1996)

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

It took 15 years, but in 1996 John Carpenter finally brought Snake Plissken back for another escape. This flick takes place in 2013 and finds Plissken (Kurt Russell) being caught gunfighting in Thailand and brought to the West Coast to be deposited in the lawless island of L.A. A massive earthquake, predicted by the United States’ right wing religious president (Cliff Robertson), has separated L.A. from the mainland and now any immoral or criminal individuals are deposited in this no man’s land. Meanwhile, the president’s daughter, Utopia (A.J. Langer) has rebelled and fled to L.A. into the arms of Peruvian terrorist Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface) with a doomsday weapon. Like in New York, Plissken is offered his freedom and a pardon of all his crimes, if he infiltrates L.A., kills Cuervo and Utopia and returns the weapon to the U.S. president.

Escape from L.A. was a box office and critical disappointment back in 1996, but with a lot of John Carpenter’s lesser films, it grows on one and now, viewed all these years later, is an entertaining watch finally finding it’s fan base. Carpenter directed from a script by he, producer Debra Hill and star Kurt Russell. It’s lighter in tone and more colorful than Plissken’s apocalyptic first adventure and the characters are a bit more cartoonish than those Snake met in NYC. The budget is almost 4x as much, though bargain basement CGI FX make it look a lot cheaper than it’s 1981 predecessor. The story is a thin remake of the first film and is a bit more politically preachy, with it’s religious right president and police state where even smoking and red meat are criminal offenses. Thankfully Snake is still Snake and he’s cool as ice, even when surfing a tsunami alongside Peter Fonda. The action is somewhat bigger than in EFNY, though a weak villain and too many disposable characters lessen the film’s overall impact. The flick follows the 1981 original’s template too closely to really resonate as a new adventure, but there is a lot of entertainment in watching Carpenter poke fun at politics and Hollywood, no more evident than the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills (Bruce Campbell) segment. It is a flawed movie, but with a little added nostalgia, at over two decades old, it can be fun…and at least we get to see Russell back in action as Snake, one more time.

Carpenter always assembles a good cast. Russell steps into Snake Plissken seamlessly and despite the outlaw being 15 years older, it seems like just yesterday, he was escaping New York City. Russell plays him very seriously despite the film’s lighter tone and Snake is ever the badass up until and including the very last shot. A classic character used far too sparsely. The only disappointment in the cast is Corraface as Cuervo Jones. The actor tries hard, but doesn’t have the presence or ferocity to make him a strong villain worthy of taking on Snake. He’s weak. Issac Hayes’ Duke of New York seemed far more deadly and dangerous. Langer is fine as the ditzy Utopia, though the character is too light to fit in a Plissken adventure. Same could be said of Buscemi’s ‘Map To The Stars’ Eddie. He’s a jokey substitute for Borgnine’s Cabbie and another character that feels out of place. Keach is good as Malloy who would be the Bob Hauk character, as is Robertson slimy as the religious zealot president. Michelle Forbes, Valeria Golino, the great Pam Grier and Peter Fonda are all fine in their supporting roles, as is Bruce Campbell a hoot as the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills. A good cast for the most part.

Overall, this was a bit disappointing when seen opening day 1996, especially to those of us who had been waiting 15 years for Carpenter to unleash Snake Plissken again. Decades later, now that the disappointment has abated and nostalgia has set in, it’s doesn’t seem so bad. Sure, it’s a bit too much of a remake to feel like a completely new adventure, but Russell is still awesome as Snake and at least we have two adventures to watch instead of just the one. There is a lot of action, aside from some sly political commentary and showbiz satire and some of it is more relevant now than back in the day. Not one of Carpenter’s best, but like many of his lesser titles, one that has actually aged better than expected…except for the awful CGI. Where was James Cameron and the New World Pictures FX crew and their model work when you needed them.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Snake Plisskens.

 

 

 

 

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JAN 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. “Bad Boys For Life” $34 Million

2. “1917” $15.8 Million

3. “Doolittle” $12.5 Million

4. “The Gentlemen” $11 Million

5. “Jumanji: The Next Level” $7.9 Million

6. “The Turning” $7.3 Million

7. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” $5.2 Million

8. “Little Women” $4.7 Million

9. “Just Mercy” $4 Million

10. “Knives Out” $3.65 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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RANDOM NONSENSE: MONSTERZERO NJ FAUX POSTER ART- ESCAPE FROM LAS VEGAS!

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MONSTERZERO NJ FAUX POSTER ART- ESCAPE FROM LAS VEGAS!

As many know, I am a photoshop artist and love doing faux posters! I haven’t done one in far too long and re-watching some John Carpenter classics on his birthday, gave me a fun idea.  What if in some alternate reality, Elvis Presley had not passed away in 1977 and in fact was a big fan of Carpenter’s Escape from New York. So much so, that the King of Rock n’ Roll, after seeing EFNY in 1981, approached Carpenter to do a sequel in which he would star. I envision Snake traveling to the walled no man’s land of Las Vegas for some kind of big heist and coming up against Presley as the ruling warlord “The King of Las Vegas.” As EFNY’s Cabbie would say, “Oh, that would have been so fine!” Yea, Cabbie, it would have! Enjoy…

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poster art: MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: COLOR OUT OF SPACE (2020)

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COLOR OUT OF SPACE (2020)

Flick is based on H.P. Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space and takes place in a secluded house in rural Arkham, Massachusetts. The home is occupied by the Gardner family, father Nathan (Nicolas Cage), mom Theresa (Joely Richardson), Wiccan teen daughter, Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), teen son, Benny (Brendan Meyer) and young Jack ( Julian Hilliard). What appears to be a meteorite lands on the eccentric family’s property one night, emitting a purple glow and having a strange effect on all of them. In the morning the meteor seems to have vanished, but strange things begin to occur. The object is not gone, however, but has found it’s way into the family well and water and begins to change the animal life around them…and begins to change the Gardeners as well.

Creepy flick is directed by South African director Richard Stanley who is most famous for being the first director on the disastrous 1996 The Island of Dr. Moreau remake and for the apocalyptic, music video-esque Hardware. Color has some very bizarre and surreal sequences, some very unsettling prosthetic creatures and make-up, and Nicolas Cage being…well, Nicolas Cage. The SPFX are quite good and the flick does play a bit like John Carpenter’s The Thing, but with alpacas, which isn’t a bad thing. The movie does start out slowly, giving us a chance to get to know this already strange family, but once it gets going, it’s quite spooky and sometimes borders on hallucinogenic. It’s not perfect, Cage’s over-the-top gets obtrusive at times and the family seems a little too weird, even before the alien entity shows up. It makes their personality transformations less startling as they are already an odd bunch. H.P. Lovecraft doesn’t seem to be the easiest author to adapt and being unfamiliar with this tale it’s hard to say just how good a job they did. Taken as it is, it’s a trippy, creepy and effective enough movie and Stanley proves he hasn’t lost his visual flare, either. Worth a look! Flick also features Tommy Chong as…surprise!…a stoner squatting on the Gardener land.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE FAREWELL (2019)

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THE FAREWELL (2019)

Heartwarming and poignant movie finds family matriarch Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen) being diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only months to live. Her family decides to keep the news from her, but then stages a wedding between her grandson (Chen Han) and his girlfriend (Aoi Mizuhara), so that the family can come together to see her one last time. This brings her granddaughter Billi (Awkwafina) to China from NYC and thus begins a bittersweet reunion that creates mixed emotions for Billi, as to whether the family is doing the right thing for Nai Nai.

The Farewell is exceptionally well directed by Lulu Wang from her own script, based on her own true-life experiences. It is a very well balanced film in terms of emotional tone, as we get a perfect mix of lighthearted and heartfelt moments, one never overwhelming the other. The film presents a look into Chinese culture and family life, and there is some subtle commentary on keeping one’s heritage while pursuing one’s dreams abroad. It is a film about family and tradition and is acted by a splendid cast, including an impressive performance by Awkwafina, who recently won a well deserved Golden Globe for the role, and a wonderful Zhao Shuzhen as Nai Nai. This is a very entertaining movie that will resonate with anyone with a family and knows exactly when to be serious and when to make you smile. Highly recommended. Stay through the credits for one more moment that will definitely put a smile on your face. Also stars Tzi Ma and Diana Lin as Billi’s parents.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES: ZOMBIELAND-DOUBLE TAP (2019)

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ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP (2019)

Sequel opens with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) now living in the White House. Columbus asks Wichita to marry him and unfortunately it causes she and Little Rock to leave. Little Rock then strikes out on her own with stoner musician Berkeley (Avan Jogia) and when Wichita returns to ask for help in getting her back, she finds Columbus is now with ditzy blonde, Madison (Zoey Deutch), whom he found hiding in a mall. If that doesn’t add tension enough, there is apparently a new faster and deadlier type of zombie on the prowl.

Ruben Fleischer returns to direct from a script by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham. As such it’s a fun sequel, though completely unnecessary as it’s basically just more of the same. There is a fun bit with Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch as Albuquerque and Flagstaff, two travelers who are amusingly like Tallahassee and Columbus, but nothing much is done with it and it is over too quickly. Rosario Dawson is a welcome addition as Nevada, an Elvis loving love interest for Tallahassee, but even her character disappears for a while till joining the last act action. The climactic battle in a pacifist commune with the evolved zombie horde is entertaining and the four leads interact together very well, as they did last time. Aside from the fun of seeing the characters together again, there isn’t much to this sequel, which follows the template of the first film a little too closely to feel like anything more than a redo. Still, it’s an entertaining movie while it lasts, mostly because of the cast, but nothing that lingers after the credits have rolled. If you are a fan of the first film, you’ll probably have a good time with this one, even if it never accomplishes more than being an amusing, nostalgic reunion.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JAN 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. “Bad Boys For Life” $59.2 Million

2. “Doolittle” $22.5 Million

3. “1917” $22.1 Million

4. “Jumanji: The Next Level” $9.5 Million

5. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” $8.3 Million

6. “Just Mercy” $6 Million

7. “Little Women” $5.9 Million

8. “Knives Out” $4.3 Million

9. “Like A Boss” $3.8 Million

10. “Frozen II” $3.7 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: GHOSTS OF MARS (2001)

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GHOSTS OF MARS (2001)

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

Ghosts of Mars was John Carpenter’s last film before he took an almost decade long break from filmmaking. The movie takes place in the future where Earth is terraforming and colonizing Mars. A squad of police officers, including Lt. Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge), Sgt. Jericho Butler (Jason Statham) and Cmd. Helena Braddock (Pam Grier), are sent to a small mining outpost to collect career criminal James “Desolation” Williams (Ice Cube), who is suspected of robbing a payroll delivery and brutally murdering six people. What they find, aside from a jailed Williams, is that an ancient evil has been released by the miners and has taken over the colonists and turned them into savage killers. Now trapped and outnumbered, they have to join forces with Williams, his criminal posse, and the other inmates, to survive.

Film is directed by Carpenter from a script by he and Larry Sulkis. Carpenter’s appreciation for British writer Nigel Kneale is evident here as Ghosts has elements of Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit (also known as Five Million Years to Earth) and Carpenter’s own Assault on Precinct 13. We have the spirit forms of an ancient Martian race of savage warriors released from their tomb and possessing individuals, turning them into savage blood-thirsty killers, who are determined to oust the human invaders. This forces cop and criminal alike to team up to survive, as the Martians lay siege to the outpost prison. The film was not a success back in the day, but looking back it’s not as bad as it’s reputation suggests, though still one of Carpenter’s lesser efforts. There is plenty of action, abundant bloodletting and gore and the SPFX are charmingly old school on GOM’s modest budget. Carpenter had a little fun with telling certain scenes from different POVs and it has some spooky moments when dealing with it’s Martian specters, who can move from one host to another when a previous host is felled. The Martians themselves are creepy with bizarre face paint and gory body piercings. It’s only when their leader (Richard Cetrone) speaks that the scenes loose their potency as he seems to be uttering gibberish and not an actual structured language, like say, Klingon or any of the Star Wars aliens. It’s a bit distracting, but thankfully those scenes are brief and few. Overall, the film is derivative, but Carpenter still crafts a fun, action/horror with a good cast and some entertaining character interaction. One of Carpenter’s strong points has always been memorable characters and it’s no different here.

As for the cast playing those characters, Natasha Henstridge makes a strong lead in what Carpenter’s intro describes as a matriarchal society. Ballard is a fighter with her own issues and she and Ice Cube work well together. As Williams, Ice Cube is solid as the criminal with a bit of a code of honor. Sure, someone with a bit stronger screen presence, like Wesley Snipes, could have taken Williams into Snake Plissken territory, but Cube is more than efficient. Statham is good as the cocky and horny Jericho Butler and it’s interesting seeing him in a supporting role, before he became a top action star. Pam Grier is every bit the legend she is as the tough Cmd. Braddock and Joanna Cassidy is good as a scientist responsible for the Martians’ release. She supplies a lot of the exposition we need, as does a clever sequence of a stoned and possessed Ballard that fills in the backstory. Supporting cast include Clea DuVall (The Faculty), an imposing Richard Cetrone as the Martian war chief and small roles from Carpenter regular Peter Jason and Robert Carradine as train operators.

Maybe it’s the nostalgia, but all these years later this flick doesn’t seem quite as disappointing as it first did on opening day in 2001. GOM is still not Carpenter’s strongest work, or most original flick, but it’s also not his worst flick either. Carpenter crafts an entertaining action flick, with some spooky sci-fi/horror elements and has a good cast. It’s not perfect, but he does add some inventive touches and moments to a derivative story and it moves quickly at just under an hour and 40 minutes. Gary B. Kibbe provides some nice cinematography for Carpenter’s shots and Carpenter himself provides a rock heavy score with some famous names guesting on it, like Steve Vai, Anthrax and Buckethead*. GOM does show signs of a filmmaker getting tired of the whole process, but also one who can still make good use out of a familiar story and on a modest budget.

*Complete track listing with guest artists listed below trailer!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) angry red planets.

 

 

 

 

 

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GHOSTS OF MARS TRACK LISTING w/guest artists (list originally posted on Wikipedia)

  1. “Ghosts of Mars” (3:42) – Steve Vai, Bucket Baker & John Carpenter
  2. “Love Siege” (4:37) – Buckethead, Robin Finck, John Carpenter & Anthrax (Scott Ian, Paul Crook, Frank Bello & Charlie Benante)
  3. “Fighty Train” (3:16) – Robin Finck, John Carpenter & Anthrax
  4. “Visions of Earth” (4:08) – Elliot Easton & John Carpenter
  5. “Slashing Gash” (2:46) – Elliot Easton & John Carpenter
  6. “Kick Ass” (6:06) – Buckethead, John Carpenter & Anthrax
  7. “Power Station” (4:37) – Robin Finck, John Carpenter & Anthrax
  8. “Can’t Let You Go” (2:18) – Stone (J.J. Garcia, Brian James & Brad Wilson), John Carpenter, Bruce Robb & Joe Robb
  9. “Dismemberment Blues” (2:53) – Elliot Easton, John Carpenter & Stone
  10. “Fighting Mad” (2:41) – Buckethead & John Carpenter
  11. “Pam Grier’s Head” (2:35) – Elliot Easton, John Carpenter & Anthrax
  12. “Ghost Popping” (3:20) – Steve Vai, Robin Finck, John Carpenter & Anthrax

 

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