HAPPY 72nd BIRTHDAY TO THE LEGENDARY JOHN CARPENTER!

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The_10_best_movie_soundtracks_according_John_Carpenter_photo_by_Kyle_Cassidy_750_501_75_sThe man, the myth, the legend!

Today legendary genre director John Carpenter turns 72! As he has directed so many classics and is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers, who’s created some of my all-time favorite films, MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse wishes him a very happy, healthy birthday!

-MonsterZero NJ

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IT CAME FROM ASIAN CINEMA: LEGEND OF THE FIST-THE RETURN OF CHEN ZHEN (2010)

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LEGEND OF THE FIST: THE RETURN OF CHEN ZHEN (2010)

Over the last decade, legendary martial arts star Donnie Yen took over the Hong Kong action cinema, with Jackie Chan and Jet Li slowing down their film appearances, and he has certainly become one of their hardest working stars. Yen followed the acclaimed Ip Man series with this 2010 story featuring Chinese martial arts movie hero Chen Zhen, previously embodied by Li in Fist of Legend and before him, by the legendary Bruce Lee in Fists of Fury.

This film adventure of the classic character is directed by Andrew Lau (Infernal Affairs) from a script by Cheung Chi-shing and Gordon Chan. Chen Zhen is portrayed here as a World War I hero who returns home to find Japan planning to invade mainland China. Zhen becomes a masked freedom fighter, during Japan’s occupation of Shanghai, to thwart their efforts. Of course, there is treachery, femme fatales and legions of enemies in his way. As usual with these films, there is plenty of action, heart stopping stunts and beautiful women, all highlighted by some sumptuous cinematography from director Andrew Lau and Ng Man-ching.

While Legend of the Fist does indeed resemble a mix of Li’s Fist of Legend and his superhero action epic Black Mask, it is also colorful and entertaining enough to let it slide, as we are treated to a martial arts period flick filled with intrigue, action, betrayal and heroism. It’s a film that evokes the Hong Kong glory days of the 90s, one that is hard not to like, despite it’s derivative storyline. Flick also stars Hong Kong cinema beauty Shu Qi as a Japanese spy and legendary Hong Kong actor Anthony Wong as a club owner. A top notch cast. Yen himself choreographed the fight scenes. Familiar but fun.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 (out of 4) swords
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BARE BONES: JAY AND SILENT BOB REBOOT (2019)

 

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JAY AND SILENT BOB REBOOT (2019)

Flick finds nothing much has changed since we last saw Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) in Kevin Smith’s 2006 Clerks II. They are still hanging out by the Quick Stop and smoking weed, though they are now growing and selling it, too. The dense duo are caught and an unscrupulous lawyer (Justin Long) gets them to sign away their names, so, a reboot of the Bluntman and Chronic movie, entitled Bluntman V Chronic, can commence. They hear a major sequence will be filmed at L.A.’s Chronic-Con and so, in true reboot fashion, the two hit the road again to stop production. Along the way Jay finds out that former love Justice (Shannon Elizabeth) bore him a child, who is now a rebellious teenager (Harley Quinn Smith) who comes along for the trip.

Kevin Smith writes and directs this latest adventure of his two slacker, stoner characters and for the first third, at least, it’s kinda nostalgic fun. Sadly the second third gets bogged down in the whole Jay finds out he’s a dad storyline and then when his daughter Millennium Faulken joins him on the quest for Chronic-Con, he tries to bond with the angry teen, without telling her who he really is. The melodrama drags the fun down a bit and the attempts at bonding aren’t nearly as funny as they should be. No better example than when he and Silent Bob have to rescue her and her racially diverse friends from a Ku Klux Klan chapter, whose Grand Wizard is played by professional wrestler/singer Chris Jericho, no less. It’s unnecessary and unfunny and only slows things down further. The third act really stalls as Jay, Silent Bob and the girls hit the convention to stop the film’s director…big surprise…Kevin Smith and it becomes a Kevin Smith ego-stroking, love letter to himself with cameos from former Smith film cast members that sadly only goes to show how old everyone has gotten since the 90s, when Smith and their characters was relevant. The stale dialog bits between these characters also prove that everyone involved is getting a bit too old for this schtick and maybe it’s time to move on from this whole, painfully dated Clerks based universe*. Smith and his returning to these characters, is like an over-the-hill singer from an 80s hair band that still sings about teenage girls. It’s sad and a bit creepy at this point.

*With a rumored Mallrats sequel and Clerks III on the way, this is, however, highly unlikely.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JAN 10-12

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

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

1. “1917” $36.5 Million

2. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” $15 Million

3. “Jumanji: The Next Level” $14 Million

4. “Like A Boss” $10 Million

5. “Just Mercy” $10 Million

6. “Little Women” $7.65 Million

7. “Underwater” $7 Million

8. “Frozen II” $5.76 Million

9. “Knives Out” $5.72 Million

10. “Spies In Disguise” $5.1 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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BARE BONES: LAST CHRISTMAS (2019)

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LAST CHRISTMAS (2019)

Christmas season set romantic comedy finds pretty Kate (Emilia Clarke) down on her luck and unable to keep a roof over her head, because of constantly pissing-off those she roommates with. She’s had a traumatic, life threatening illness, has not been herself since and is alienating her family and friends. Even her stern, Christmas loving boss (Michelle Yeoh) is loosing patience with the wannabe singer turned Christmas store elf. One night things start to change, however, as Kate meets the mysterious and charismatic Tom (Henry Golding), who inspires Kate to overcome her emotional troubles and be herself again.

Holiday flick is directed by Paul Feig (Ghostbusters 2016) from a script and story by co-star Emma Thompson, Greg Wise and Bryony Kimmings. As such, it is a mixed bag. Even though we are supposed to be on Kate’s side, she is somewhat annoying at first and it’s hard to sympathize with her when she is being a bit of a selfish a-hole. The romantic aspects are very cliché, though thanks to a charming cast they still work very well. That cast elevates this above the mediocre holiday rom-com it is, with Clarke and Golding having really nice chemistry together. Clarke especially wins us over once Kate starts to change her ways and goes from annoying to adorable in the last act and Golding proves to be a charismatic leading man. A fantastic Michelle Yeoh steals every scene she is in and Dame Emma Thompson is amusing as Kate’s Yugoslavian mother. The London setting is equally charming and the film does have a surprising reveal, about two third through, that you may not see coming. Overall, it’s entertaining enough, wins you over by it’s last act and made far better than it’s routine script by a solid cast and some good old fashioned charm…though, you might be a little tired of that Wham! song by it’s end.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: TAMMY AND THE T-REX (1994)

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TAMMY AND THE T-REX (1994): THE UNCUT VERSION

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

Tammy and the T-Rex is a ludicrous 1994 comedy that had some very explicit gore cut from it to earn a PG-13 rating for it’s initial release. Now 25 years later, those gore scenes have been restored and it’s up to the viewer as to whether that was a good idea or not.

Ridiculous story finds high school cheerleader Tammy (Denise Richards) falling for a new boyfriend, football player Michael (Paul Walker). Tammy’s delinquent ex, Billy (George Pilgrim) doesn’t take too kindly to her new beau and, in a plot worthy of Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil, kidnaps him and drops him off at a wild animal preserve. Savaged by a lion, Michael finds himself in the hospital and in critical condition. Opportunistic mad scientist Dr. Wachenstein (Terry Kizer) has the youth declared dead and puts Michael’s brian in an animatronic T-Rex as part of his experiments to create the perfect robot. The T-Rex/Michael escapes captivity and takes bloody revenge on Billy and his gang before trying to resume his relationship with Tammy. Obviously, thinking there is a monster on the loose, the inept town law enforcement closes in forcing Tammy and the T-Rex to go on the lam. Yes, this is an actual movie!

This cheesy, goofy and gory flick is directed by Stewart Raffill from a nonsensical script by he and Gary Brockette. The tone of the film, especially with the gore restored, is wildly uneven with slapstick comedy one minute and slasher style violence the next. The love story angle of it is even more absurd, with scenes of Tammy gleefully riding her boyfriend/T-Rex with the cops in hot pursuit. One wonders if the removal of the gore wasn’t actually a good idea, as in this case, at least the film would have been more consistent as a straight-up comedy. The cast are all over-acting and the over-the-top performances fit in with the premise far more than the viscera and limbs. The animatronic T-Rex is impressive, though the FX in some long shots of it walking are pathetically poor. Thankfully those shots are few and far between. Still, there is something very entertaining about it, though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what. Maybe it’s the filmmakers just taking the ball and running with it that makes it appealing, or, perhaps, it’s presenting this tale of love and robot dinosaurs proudly without restraint that makes it amusing. More than likely it’s simply because it hits the right notes at being an enjoyable ‘so bad it’s good’ oddity and that’s what gives us the giggles.

Whatever the reasons one can sit through this with a smile of disbelieve and amusement on their face, this is a ridiculous movie that has the audacity to parade it’s nonsensical story out there proudly. There is goofball comedy one minute and hardcore gore the next, as a mechanical T-rex with a human brian tries to find love and revenge in a small suburban California town. It’s an original premise, you have to give it that! Tammy and the T-Rex is current available uncut on blu-ray from the great folks at Vinegar Syndrome… https://vinegarsyndrome.com/collections/vinegar-syndrome/products/tammy-and-the-t-rex

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) T-Rexs for it’s sheer audacity and unrestrained goofiness.

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: RAMBO-LAST BLOOD (2019)

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RAMBO: LAST BLOOD (2019)

Completely unnecessary sequel finds Viet Nam veteran John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) now living on his late father’s ranch…or underneath it, as he prefers to lurk in a series of tunnels he’s built to one of the actual rooms. He lives with his father’s former live-in caretaker Maria (Adriana Barraza) and her hot granddaughter Gabriela (Yvette Monreal) and is on meds for post-traumatic stress disorder. When Gabriela travels to Mexico to find her father, she is kidnapped by a Mexican cartel for sex trafficking. This has Rambo putting down his meds and picking up his weapons to rescue Gabriela and take on vicious cartel lord Hugo Martinez (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) and his army of thugs.

After the last film took the character full circle, there was no need to drag him back into action again, but, here we are. Flick is routinely directed by Adrian Grunberg from a bad script by Stallone and Matthew Cirulnick. Not sure what the intent here was, but the film paints a very unflattering portrayal of both Mexican’s and Mexico itself. Stallone’s script vilifies the country and most of it’s people, one assumes in the hopes that we’ll feel no sympathy when the super soldier brutally and bloodily dispatches an army of cartel members in the booby-trapped maze beneath his ranch. You’d think slimy cartel leaders and their thugs are villainous enough, but aside from Maria and Gabriela, no one from south of the border is portrayed as anything but a lowlife or creep. Even without the hateful tone of the flick, it’s simply a routine and dull movie with generic bad guys and horror flick level gore when Rambo goes all Jigsaw in elimination of his prey. Hopefully the film’s subtitle is true to it’s word and Rambo has finally retired his pointy objects. They should have quit while they were ahead.

-MonsterZero NJ

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JAN 3-5

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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” $33.7 Million

2. “Jumanji: The Next Level” $26.5 Million

3. “Little Women” $13.5 Million

4. “The Grudge” $11.3 Million

5. “Frozen II” $11.2 Million

6. “Spies In Disguise” $10 Million

7. “Knives Out” $9 Million

8. “Uncut Gems” $7.8 Million

9. “Bombshell” $4 Million

10. “Cats” $2.6 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE DEVIL’S CANDY and BLISS

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Been a long time since the last MonsterZero NJ’s Saturday Night Double Feature, but after re-watching Joe Begos’ Bliss, I realized it would make a great double feature with Sean Byrne’s The Devil’s Candy. Both flicks feature tortured artists, supernatural influences on their art, hard core music and neither skimps on blood and gore. So, on to the sex, gore and Rock n’ Roll!…

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THE DEVIL’S CANDY (2015)

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

I’m a huge fan of Sean Byrne’s The Loved Ones and was obviously looking forward to seeing another flick from him…and finally, after eight years, it’s here. The Devil’s Candy is Byrne’s newest film, made in 2015, it’s only now getting a proper release on VOD and in select theaters from the cool folks at IFC Midnight.

The story here is of heavy metal loving artist Jesse (Ethan Embry), who moves to an old rural farmhouse with his wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and chip-off-the-old-block teen daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco). While Jesse and Astrid know that the couple that formerly lived there died in the house, what they don’t know is that it is also home to some kind of malevolent influence. If it’s not bad enough that Jesse’s art starts to take a dark and ominous tone soon after moving in, Ray (Pruitt Taylor Vince), the child murdering son of the previous owners, wants to come home…and he has set his demented sights on Zooey.

While not quite as intense as The Loved Ones, and lacking it’s twisted sense of humor, this is still an atmospheric, disturbing and sometimes brutally violent horror flick. The mix of heavy metal music and demonic horror, obviously works as the two have been paired up since Black Sabbath took to the airwaves in 1968. While the demonic influence elements are nothing new, they are very effective as used by Bryne, draped in his thick atmosphere of foreboding. The most disturbing elements, though, are obviously Ray’s need to “feed” The Devil his favorite candy…children. He stalks Zooey right out in the open and the distraction the malevolent entity feeds Jesse by way of his art, leaves poor Zooey unprotected. It creates some very unsettling scenes as Ray gets closer to obtaining his goal, including one in Zooey’s bedroom that is absolutely bone chilling. This all leads up to not one but two harrowing sequences with Zooey and the rotund pervert, each more intense than the last. There are some drawbacks. The film comes in at a very tight 79 minutes and it sometimes feels too quickly over for it’s own good. We wish we had a little more time to let certain scenes resonate and be given a little more time to let the disturbing nature of what is transpiring sink in before moving on to the next dramatic moment. It is also never quite clear whether it is this demonic influence that led Ray to kill, or was it his homicidal habit that brought the entity into the house…if not…why is it there? On a technical level the film looks great and while there is some week CGI during the climax, the rest of the FX work is solid and there is a really atmospheric score from Mads Heldtberg, Michael Yezerski and the band Sunn O)))

If anything helps one past some of the flaws, it’s a really good cast. Ethan Embry has become a fixture in some good horror/thrillers lately such as the frustrated son in the awesome Late Phases, or the ill-fated gun dealer in The Guest. He is really good here, not only as metal head/family man Jesse, but in portraying Jesse’s gradual transformation from attentive father into obsessed artist. As his frustrated and scared wife, Shiri Appleby is solid as a woman whose family life is disrupted from both within and without. She has a suddenly moody and unfocused husband at home and a hulking child killer lurking about after her daughter. Appleby makes her a bit more than a damsel in distress, though she isn’t given as much to do when all hell breaks loose as we’d have liked. Kiara Glasco makes a really good impression as Zooey. A teen who walks to the beat of her father influenced drum but is her own person. She’s a tough kid and a little rebellious and the young actress has a great chemistry with Embry, so their father/daughter relationship really works well on screen. She has a couple of tough scenes to portray and does a good job. Making this all come together is a really disturbing performance by veteran actor Pruitt Taylor Vince (recently seen as “Otis” in The Walking Dead). Vince really makes Ray a creepy person who makes you uncomfortable every moment he’s on camera. It really makes you fear for Zooey, especially when he catches up to her…more than once. He makes your skin crawl. A solid cast just as in Byrne’s first flick.

So maybe writer/director Sean Byrne hasn’t quite equaled The Loved Ones in his sophomore feature flick, but he has delivered another disturbing, atmospheric and bloody movie that is of a different sort than his previous twisted love story. This plot may be a bit more commonplace, but he uses the familiar tropes very effectively. The theatrical cut…wikipedia lists a 10 minute longer festival cut…may be a little too short for it’s own good and there are some unanswered questions, but a really strong cast and a director who knows how to turn the screws makes up for a lot of it. Highly recommended. especially if you loved Sean Byrne’s previous work.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and1/2 (out of 4) screaming guitars!

 

 

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BLISS (2019)

Dezzy (Dora Madison) is a down on her luck artist and drug abuser who is having trouble finishing a piece that could turn her life around. She vents her frustration in a night of debauchery, involving alcohol, a new drug from her dealer and a threesome with friend Courtney (Tru Collins) and Courtney’s boyfriend Ronnie (Rhys Wakefield). Not only does this get her working on her painting again, but gives her an insatiable appetite for blood.

Joe Begos writes and directs this sometimes hallucinogenic tale of artistic block, depravity and vampirism. Begos’ first two features Almost Human and The Mind’s Eye were homage heavy flicks, though very entertaining. Here he shows he can do something outside of his influences and do it well, even on a very small budget, which seems to suit Begos. While not a traditional vampire tale, as Dezzy has no fangs and doesn’t turn into any creatures of the night, it has some gory demises once Dezzy’s thirst drives her to kill. Whatever she is, can be killed by a wooden stake, as Courtney demonstrates by finishing off one of Dezzy’s victims, and apparently sunlight can be lethal, too. Vampires or not, this is a tale of excess and Begos sometimes put’s his audience inside Dezzy’s head trips and it gives us a sense of the state of mind the troubled artist is in. It’s a trip and a disturbing one for all the right reasons. The gore is very plentiful and well orchestrated and the film itself has a raw feel to it that works very well, as it revels in the seedier side of Los Angeles nightlife. A contemporary vampire tale substituting ancient curses and cloves of garlic for sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.

While there are quite a few supporting players, it’s very much a one woman show and lead Dora Madison (Exists) rises to the occasion. She dives into the role with a passionate yet very real performance. One doesn’t feel like they are watching a movie character, but a real person whose artistic nature has her living a life of excesses and extreme stimulation, and this is before she is transformed into a creature of the night. Her role requires a lot of nudity, drug use and hedonistic behavior, not to mention outbursts of rage, anger and violence when she realizes something is very wrong with her and her bloodlust takes hold. The actress performs it all very well. The supporting cast, such as Collins as Courtney and Jeremy Gardner as Dezzy’s “friend” Clive all create interesting people who seem to dwell more within the underground lifestyle of L.A. A good cast of interesting characters.

Overall, Begos is once again proving he is a filmmaker to watch. His homages to The Thing (Almost Human) and Scanners (The Mind’s Eye) were solid flicks that paid respectful tribute to their inspirations. Here Begos shows he can operate outside his influences and presents a tale of a young woman’s downward spiral into madness, depravity and murder all in the name of artistic expression. It’s trippy, gory and dirty and sleazy in all the right places. Looking forward to Begos’ upcoming VFW about a group of war veterans under siege at a VFW hall.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) fangs, even if Dezzy doesn’t have any.

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: THE SHED (2019)

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THE SHED (2019)

Flick opens with a man named Joe Bane (Frank Whaley) running from what appears to be a vampire (Damian Norfleet). He is saved by the rising sun, but not before being bitten. Now infected, he flees to a local house and hides from the rays of the sun within the shed. The house is occupied by teen Stan (Jay Jay Warren), who lives there with his abusive grandfather Ellis (Timothy Bottoms), after the death of his parents. Stan and his friend Dommer (Cody Kostro) are continual victims of school bully Marble (Chris Petrovski), but that is nothing compared to discovering he has a blood-thirsty monster in his own backyard. Trapping the creature inside the shed, Stan tries to figure out what to do, though the fed-up Dommer has some ideas of his own.

Flick is written and directed by Frank Sabatella and is an entertaining enough tale, though could have been a bit more clever with it’s premise. Having a bullied individual suddenly finding a monster at their disposal is nothing new, but The Shed is at least, smart enough to never have vampire Bane actually under the control of the boys and thus he is always a threat, even when Dommer decides to use a captured vampire to his advantage. The film also keeps Stan extremely reluctant to use the monster as a tool of revenge, so the teen stays a likable and sympathetic hero. The vampire scenes are effective, there is some decent gore and the final showdown is intense, as Bane finally gets out of the shed. The cast are good, even those playing stereotypical characters such as school bully and redneck cop (Siobhan Fallon Hogan), and who knew comedic actor Frank Whaley would make a spooky vampire. Sabatella treats the material seriously and with respect. So, even when it’s at it’s most cliché, the film never gets outright silly and thus entertains for the right reasons. Not a great movie, but an effective enough horror and Sabatella does show some potential with his camera work and ability to induce chills with a cliché story. Also stars Sofia Happonen as Stan’s girlfriend Roxy.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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