BARE BONES: FEAR STREET PART 3-1666 (2021)

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FEAR STREET PART 3: 1666 (2021)

Third film opens in 1666 with young Sarah Fier (now Kiana Madeira) being thought wicked for her love for village girl Hannah (Olivia Scott Welch). With the warnings of “The Widow” (Jordana Spiro), a local woman suspected of practicing witchcraft, and the increasingly strange and gruesome events that are occurring in the village, Sarah—and the villagers—start to believe it. Soon a full witch hunt is underway and Sarah and Hannah become the targets of the villagers’ fears and anger, as they wish to purge their village of this evil presence.

Concluding R. L. Stine based installment is once again directed by Leigh Janiak from her script with Phil Graziadei and Kate Trefry. A strong and spooky finale that has some fun telling the origin story of “witch” Sarah Fier by having the cast members of the first two chapters play the parts. Kiana Madeira really shines here playing the part of Sarah, after already making a strong heroine out of her Deena. She’s a star in the making. There is sympathy for Sarah as we find out the surprising truth behind her story, one of an independent and passionate young woman and the ignorance and superstitions of others. It’s a dramatically strong finish, as we find out how the Shadyside curse came to be, it’s true nature, and then return to 1994, to wrap up the story in a thrilling climactic last act. It’s a spooky and strong concluding chapter, with the atmosphere and gruesome bloodshed we’ve come to expect from this Netflix series.

All in all a solid finale that manages to be the best of the three flicks. A fitting end for this wonderfully creepy and bloody three part horror series, based on the works of beloved author R.L. Stine.

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Click on the link here for my review of  Fear Street part 1: 1994

Click on the link here for my review of  Fear Street part 2: 1978

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES: A CLASSIC HORROR STORY (2021)

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A CLASSIC HORROR STORY (2021)

Derivative on purpose Italian horror finds five travelers on an RV trip crashing in the middle of nowhere. They happen upon a strange cabin, that turns out to be the sacrificial alter of a bizarre and bloodthirsty cult.

Flick is directed by Roberto De Feo and Paolo Strippoli from their script with Lucio Besana, David Bellini and Milo Tissone. Amusing it took five people to write the script for what is basically another variation on the cabin in the woods horror, but it shows with some definite idea overload. On the plus side, it has some effective and brutal violence, some unsettling sequences and some spooky and disturbing visuals. The cast are all fine and it at least has the respect to acknowledge it’s influences—a character refers to the cabin as “Sam Raimi’s house”—but when it comes down to it, we’ve seen it all before—many times. Between the spooky bits there are also some long dialogue sequences, with characters bickering and passing blame on each other for their predicament, and did we need another pregnant character for sympathetic effect? Last act veers off into a couple of different directions that are, like the rest of the movie, a mash-up of flicks we’ve already seen. It goes on a bit too long and gets quite convoluted before finally ending, thus losing what little grip it had. Overall, some effective moments, but maybe too many cooks adding too many ingredients to the homage soup for it’s own good. Flick is available on Netflix.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: GREAT WHITE (2021)

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GREAT WHITE (2021)

Australian shark flick finds a couple of seaplane owners, Kaz (Katrina Bowden) and her boyfriend Charlie (Aaron Jakubenko), taking another couple, Michelle (Kimie Tsukakoshi) and her husband Joji (Tim Kano) on a tour of an area known as Hell’s Reef. Aptly named, as a pair of large great white sharks prowl the waters. While investigating the origins of a body they’ve found, an earlier meal of said sharks, the two couples and their cook Benny (Te Kohe Tuhaka) soon find themselves stranded in a lifeboat, miles from land and now prey to the predatory duo.

Routine shark movie is competently directed by Martin Wilson from a script by Michael Boughen. It’s run of the mill as these flicks go, with nothing new to offer, though what it does present is entertaining enough for those who like everything shark. There is some moderate bloodshed, as these flicks go and the characters are fairly stereotypical, as is the soap opera level drama between them—did Kaz really need to announce she’s pregnant before their perilous adventure begins? There is some sub-par CGI to bring the effectiveness down a few notches, but the last act is fairly intense and suspenseful, even if we have to sit through some ho-hum shark melodrama to get there. The cast are al fine, with Bowden being a solid heroine, and the Australian locations are nice to look at and a bit refreshing to the eye.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES BOOK REVIEW: THE CARROW HAUNT by DARCY COATES

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THE CARROW HAUNT by DARCY COATES

Another fun and spooky read from Darcy Coates, though a bit of an uneven one. This book finds Remy, a tour guide in the notoriously haunted Carrow House being hired to host a two week paranormal investigation of the mansion, which has a background of serial killers and murder. She has an eccentric group to watch over, including Carrow’s teen owner, April, the mysterious founder of the investigation, Mark and psychic medium, Marjorie. When things start going wrong and guests start turning up dead, Remy begins to believe this was a bad idea and that the evil in Carrow House is greater than any of them imagined—and maybe even far more corporeal than expected.

Book is another entertaining story, though based on Coates’ books read so far, it is also the most over the top tale from the author. It starts out grounded in the traditional haunted house tropes and a somewhat more down to earth approach, combining haunted house story and soon murder mystery. By it’s last act it gets very theatrical, though, with evil spirits plotting to become corporeal, a storm that seems almost to have a mind of it’s own and a ghost battle royale in a burning house. Depending on one’s tastes, the more bombastic ending may cause the story to lose it’s grip, or you may embrace the more Spielbergian theatrics. There are some plot contrivances in the last act, too, that allow characters thought gone to reappear and it gets a bit much. At least Coates’ penchant for good, fun characters holds up with her largest cast of characters in the books read so far. Her most uneven book to this point overall, but still an entertaining read and Remy is yet another memorable lead heroine.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JULY 9-11

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JULY 9-11

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

1. “Black Widow” $80 Million

2. “F9: The Fast Saga” $10.8 Million

3. “The Boss Baby: Family Business” $8.7 Million

4. “The Forever Purge” $6.7 Million

5. “A Quiet Place Part II” $3 Million

6. “Cruella” $2.2 Million

7. “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” $1.6 Million

8. “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” $1.2 Million

9. “In The Heights” $630,000

10. “Zola” $620,000

-MonsterZero NJ

source: Box Office Mojo

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HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK!

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HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK!

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Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken! One of the greatest and sadly underused movie anti-heroes of all-time!

40 years ago today the film world was introduced to Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) as John Carpenter’s Escape From New York was released in theaters! A little EFNY anniversary trivia: studio Avco Embassy Pictures wanted Charles Bronson or Tommy Lee Jones for Plissken, but Carpenter held out for Kurt Russell and history was made! HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK!

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The late, great Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. where I saw Escape From New York opening night! (Photo from the Mitchell Dvoskin collection)

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: FEAR STREET PART 2-1978 (2021)

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FEAR STREET PART 2: 1978 (2021)

Second film opens with Deena (Kiana Madeira) and Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) seeking out Christine Berman (Gillian Jacobs), the sole survivor of a previous massacre at a summer camp. The flick then goes back to 1978 to Camp Nightwing as Christine, known then to everyone as Ziggy (now Sadie Sink) is a picked-on outcast at the camp, who has a reputation for getting into and causing trouble. Ziggy is there with her older, good-girl sister, Cindy (Emily Rudd) and future sheriff, Nick Goode (Ted Sutherland). The Shadyside/Sunnyvale rivalry is in full swing and the legend of Sarah Fier (Elizabeth Scopel) hangs over the camp. Soon bodies start to fall, and both Ziggy and Cindy must try to survive and stop the witch’s curse.

Second R. L. Stine based installment is again directed by Leigh Janiak from her script with Zak Olkewicz, written from their story with Phil Graziadei. Flick follows the template of summer camp horrors fairly closely, yet also does it’s own thing, while adding the self aware movie references that contemporary horror fans expect. It has the stereotypical characters one also expects, well played by it’s young cast and both Ziggy and Cindy make for good leads. Much like the first installment, it’s fun, nostalgic and has some intense and scary moments. The makers, from Stine to Janiak, know their influences well, but also bring some of their own ideas, such as some spooky stuff in catacombs under the camp. Like Part 1 there is a lot of bloody action, some nicely placed homages and plenty of gruesome gore. There is also a great soundtrack of 70s songs and some very creepy visuals to add atmosphere. If there is anything that holds 1978 back a little bit, is that due to information given us in Part 1, we go in knowing the fates of our two leading ladies and a few others. That does mute the suspense a little bit. Other than that, this is another solid chapter in Nextflix’s adaptation. So far, this three part series has yielded two strong entries and hopefully, it ends as strongly as it has started. Bring on Fear Street part 3: 1666!

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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REVIEW: BLACK WIDOW (2021)

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BLACK WIDOW (2021)

Not only was Black Widow a long time coming in terms of Natasha Romanoff getting her own solo feature, but it is another highly anticipated flick postponed for over a year by COVID 19 shutdowns. Now it has arrived and we finally get some of the answers we were looking for, and a bit of closure.

Film opens with a sequence from 1995 detailing Natasha’s (Ever Anderson) fleeing from America with her Russian sleeper cell family and being taken with her sister Yelena (Violet McGraw) to be part of the Black Widow training program. Film then resumes between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War with Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) on the run after helping Cap and Bucky escape. Nat is about to go off the grid, when her long lost sister Yelena (Florence Pugh) pulls her into a mission to stop the Black Widow assassins training program, still being conducted in the Red Room, by a man she thought she killed, Dreykov (Ray Winstone). Determined to stop the Red Room and Dreykov once and for all, reunites her not only with Yelena, but with her sleeper cell mother and father, Alexei “Red Guardian” Shostakov (David Harbour), a super soldier and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), a Black Widow herself.

Flick is directed by Cate Shortland from a script by Eric Pearson and story by Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson. It has some nice emotional resonance and gives us a glimpse into how Natalia came to be the hero we know her as from the previous MCU films. The first act is strong and features a lot of action, as Nat reconnects with Yelena and are on the run from a metal-clad master assassin known only as Taskmaster, who perfectly mimics the fighting styles of his enemies. The pace here is quick, though not too fast and the action can surprisingly be a bit brutal, pushing the limits of the PG-13 rating. It’s the second act where the film loses some momentum, as Nat and Yelena break Alexei out of a Russian prison and then travel to a pig farm in St. Petersburg to reconnect with Melina, who has vital information as to the Red Room’s whereabouts. It’s here the story grinds to almost a halt, as the “family” catches up, voices their issues and awkwardly tries to bond again. Despite some nicely placed humor in the first third, here a few of the attempts at laughs fall a bit flat amidst the melodrama. The film thankfully picks up again as a betrayal brings the foursome’s enemies to their door and we head into the climactic last act in the flying Red Room complex, where Natasha comes face to face with her past, Dreykov and Taskmaster. There is a lot of action and the FX are spectacular, though there are a few weak CGI fire effects that stand out a bit. As a whole, Black Widow plays more like a Daniel Craig Bond film than a superhero movie, until the more FX heavy climax. It has a nice emotional center giving the character of Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, some closure and us some answers and details, that have been left out of her story thus far.

The cast all shine here. Scarlett Johansson gives one of her best performances as Nat and imbues her with some emotional depth that she wasn’t always afforded as a second banana in the other flicks. It’s too bad her story arc is at an end, as it would be nice to see her in solo action again. That being said, if this is a passing of the torch, Florence Pugh does a great job as her “sister” Yelena Belova, who takes up the mantel in the comics. Pugh is funny, tough and handles the action quite well. She has star quality and hopefully Yelena returns in future projects. Harbour is good as Red Guardian, though the character’s dialogue tends to ramble a bit and it stands out, especially in the slow middle. Weisz is good as the matronly Melina and gets to have a few action moments herself. Winstone is efficiently villainous as Dreykov, a far more grounded villain than we are used to in these films, but the veteran actor makes him lethal. William Hurt is briefly seen as Ross, O-T Fagbenie is a Natasha ally named Mason and Olga Kurylenko appears in a role that won’t be spoiled here. A good cast and it was nice to see Johansson get to say goodbye (?) to Romanoff with a really good performance and her own flick.

Overall this was a solid entry in the MCU. It’s a more down to earth action/adventure than the previous films, at least unit the last act, and gives us some of the details we’ve been waiting for. It has a good cast, with hints at the future, as well as, finally filling us in on Nat’s past. If anything holds this flick back, it’s that the middle act slows down momentum considerably and a few of the character interactions, during these sequences, come across as more awkward than effective. It recovers for it’s last third, with an action packed finale and some nice closure for the Romanoff character. Maybe not quite living up to the large expectations set by the long wait, but far from a disappointment. Stay through the credits for an especially shocking post credits scene.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 Black Widows

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JULY 2-4

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JULY 2-4

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

1. “F9: The Fast Saga” $22.8 Million

2. “The Boss Baby: Family Business” $16 Million

3. “The Forever Purge” $12.5 Million

4. “A Quiet Place Part II” $4 Million

5. “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” $3 Million

6. “Cruella” $2.4 Million

7. “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” $2.1 Million

8. “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” $1.26 Million

9. “Zola” $1,23 Million

10. “In The Heights” $1.85 Million

-MonsterZero NJ

source: Box Office Mojo

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BARE BONES: THE TOMORROW WAR (2021)

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THE TOMORROW WAR (2021)

Action flick has people from the future arriving in 2022 to reveal that a war is being waged in 2051 against a very aggressive alien species referred to as “Whitespikes”. Earth is losing that war and they’ve come back in time to recruit people to fight. One of those drafted, is former military man and current biology teacher Dan Forester (Chris Pratt). Dan is whisked thirty years into the future, where he teams with a squad of reluctant soldiers from his timeline and his own grown-up daughter, Muri (Yvonne Strahovski) to battle the invaders. As the war rages in the future, Dan may find the solution back in the past where his wife (Betty Gilpin) and family awaits.

Flick is energetically directed by Chris McKay from a script by Zach Dean. Story-wise it’s TerminatorAliensStarship Troopers, a dash of John Carpenter’s The Thing and a ton of clichés all thrown in a blender that’s cranked up to 11. It’s derivative as heck, but it’s also a lot of fun and the big action does come quickly and explosively with moments of schmaltzy melodrama in-between, so we can catch our breaths. It’s comparable tone-wise to a Fast and Furious movie for sci-fi geeks and that’s not a bad thing on a simple entertainment level. The cast are fine with Pratt making a solid hero, Strahovski a noble scientist, Gilpin is wasted as the wife left back in the past, though J.K. Simmons is fun as Dan’s warrior dad, James. Supporting cast are efficient, too. Overall, it’s silly, a bit overlong and incredibly derivative, but it’s reported $200 million budget is onscreen with lots of FX and spectacular action and even if you’ve seen it all before, it is a popcorn fun mash-up.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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