REVIEW: SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS (2021)

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SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS (2021)

Centuries ago the power hungry Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung) came into possession of the ten rings, mystic objects that granted him power, invincibility and immortality. Not satisfied with all that he conquered, he set out to take over Ta Lo, a mystical village. There he was defeated by and fell in love with the beautiful warrior Ying Li (Fala Chen). They were wed and had a son, Shang-Chi and daughter, Xu Xialing. Upon her death, Xu returned to his villainous old ways and his children fled. In modern day Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) works in San Francisco as a valet named Sean with friend Katy (Awkwafina) and his sister remains hidden. When his father’s forces steal an amulet given him by his mother, the warrior within emerges, as Shang-Chi sets out to find Xu Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) and stop his father from whatever evil he’s plotting.

Flick is energetically and colorfully directed by Destin Daniel Cretton from his script and story with Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham, based on the Marvel Comic. He presents a Marvel superhero epic by way of a Hong Kong martial arts fantasy flick and it can be dazzling entertainment at times. There are some stunning and fast moving action scenes, some wonderfully designed fantasy creatures and a superhero tale steeped in Asian culture. Cretton also gives the film a heart and soul to go with all the top notch SPFX and ferocious fight scenes, and the film has a rich background story to add depth to all the derring-do. There are a large amount of characters, but many are three dimensional and have purpose, thanks to story, script and excellent casting. If the film has any flaw, it’s that the fever pitch momentum grinds to a halt for a while, once Shang-Chi and company arrive at Ta Lo and there is some soul searching and we get exposition on the real threat coming. It then picks up quite spectacularly for it’s climactic confrontation. Other than a considerably slower middle act, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is breathtaking entertainment.

Getting back to the cast, there is quite an impressive one assembled here. Simu Liu is charming, charismatic and sometimes very funny as hero Shang-Chi. He plays a reluctant hero at first, but a noble and brave one, when it’s time to face his father and his Ten Rings army. Awkwafina provides some nice comic moments as his best bud Katy, but the actress has some nice dramatic and heroic moments, too. She’s not just there for laughs. Hong Kong film legend Tony Leung is a strong villain as Xu Wenwu, also known as The Mandarin. A celebrated actor in his Hong Kong films, he brings depth and dimension to what is anything but a stereotypical villain. Meng’er Zhang is good as Shang-Chi’s sister Xu Xialing and has some nice fight scenes of her own. Fala Chen is very good in her scenes as Ying Li, a noble warrior and loving wife and mother. Hong Kong film legend Michelle Yeoh is strong and wise as Shang-Chi’s aunt Nan and Ben Kingsley returns as fake Mandarin actor Trevor Slattery. A great cast with some fun surprise cameos, too.

Overall, this was a really fun and entertaining Marvel superhero epic that wonderfully borrows from the classic Hong Kong cinema martial arts fantasy flicks. There is dazzling martial arts action, stunning visuals and some very interesting characters both human and not. The FX are top notch, there are some sumptuous locations and lead Simu Liu makes for a noble hero as Shang-Chi, amongst a great cast. After a somewhat disappointing Black Widow, Marvel rebounds with one of the most fun movies of the year. As with all these flicks, stay through all the credits for two additional scenes.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 swords

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BARE BONES: NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE (2021)

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NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE (2021)

Book based horror finds undocumented immigrant Ambar (Cristina Rodlo) coming to America and facing all sorts of challenges, from the creepy landlord (Marc Menchacha) at the boarding house she is staying at, to her demanding boss (Mitchell Mullen) at the sweatshop she works at, to the extreme costs of fake IDs. Those are the least of her worries, though, as the boarding house has a dark past, might be haunted and a terrible fate possibly awaits her and her fellow borders there.

Flick is well directed by Santiago Menghini from a script and story by Jon Croker and Fernanda Coppel based on a book by Adam Nevill. Aside from being very spooky and atmospheric, Menghini conjures some very chilling and effective imagery and some unsettlingly bloody violence. Through Ambar, director and writers also paint a tale of undocumented immigrants being taken advantage of, abused and cheated, as going for help would only get them deported. This gives the flick some emotional weight amongst the scares. Add to that, something very wrong is going on in this boarding house and a malevolent supernatural force may be after Ambar and the other girls and you have a fright flick that is not without something to say. Menghini creates some nice chills and scares and delivers a very unsettling and gruesome last act when evils, both paranormal and not, come out of the shadows. The fact that the cast is good, with Cristina Rodlo making a really strong heroine, adds a nice bonus to an already solid horror flick from Santiago Menghini and company. Recommended! Now streaming on Netflix.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: SMOKE & MIRRORS-THE STORY OF TOM SAVINI (2021)

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SMOKE & MIRRORS: THE STORY OF TOM SAVINI (2021)

Wonderful documentary from Jason Baker tells the story of a true legend in the film industry, renown especially for his contributions to the horror genre, Tom Savini. The film tells the story of Savini growing up in a modest income family in Pittsburg and being influenced by his older brothers and his sister. It details his going to horror movies with his mother, seeing The Man With A 1,000 Faces and deciding from there he wanted to be a part of show business and started doing make-up FX and magic as a kid. It takes us to his harrowing time in Viet Nam and his discovery of a love of acting in theater upon his return home. We are told of his first collaboration with George Romero on Martin and then finally the fateful call from Romero to do the make-up FX for the classic Dawn of the Dead. From there we watch his career unfold as an actor, director, one of the greatest make-up FX creators of all time and a legendary genre personality. In between we get a lot of personal details about his life outside the movies and it builds a strong picture of the man behind the make-up.

Baker wisely tells the story from the words of the man himself, supporting Savini’s intimate details of his life and work with extensive photos and video from the legend’s personal life, along with behind the scenes and deleted scene footage from both his make-up work and acting roles. We also get interviews and anecdotes from many of those who worked with Savini, including George Romero, Tony Todd, Robert Rodriguez, Tom Atkins, Corey Feldman and even personal details from his daughter, Lia. It’s a must-see documentary about a true giant in the film and horror film worlds, not only for his fans, but anyone interested in a career in film. It’s a story of a man from humble beginnings who overcame a nightmarish experience as a combat photographer in Viet Nam and many personal hardships to become one of the greatest talents and beloved personalities in the movies, not to mention a true horror icon. Very highly recommended. Available to stream currently on Shudder and on 10/19/212 on VOD everywhere.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES: OUIJA JAPAN (2021)

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OUIJA JAPAN (2021)

Ouija Japan is an upcoming low budget horror that finds Westerner Karen (Ariel Sekiya) living in Japan with her Japanese husband and desperate to make friends. She agrees to go on a trip with some other women and soon finds herself fighting for her life, after using a Ouija board unleashes a dark spirit.

Dull and ridiculous movie is written and directed by Masaya Kato—thought there is little sign of an actual script, as it seems made up as it goes along. It’s a nonsensical and very amateur flick that has a Ouija board session somehow degenerating into a Battle Royale-esque fight for survival, with the women pitted against each other and a fox spirit with a sword. There is also some kind of phone app involved as well. What? It makes no sense at times, the acting is terrible, the dialogue awful and one wonders if Kato was even on set to direct. Not much to recommend other than some nice Japanese locations.

-MonsterZero NJ

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES SEPT 24-26

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES SEPT 24-26

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

1. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” $13.3 Million

2. “Dear Evan Hansen” $7.5 Million

3. “Free Guy” $4.1 Million

4. “Candyman” $2.5 Million

5. “Cry Macho” $2.1 Million

6.  “Jungle Cruise” $1.7 Million

7. “Malignant” $1.5 Million

8. “Copshop” $1.3 Million

9. “PAW Patrol: The Movie” $1.1 Million

10. “Love Story” $971,000

-MonsterZero NJ

source: Box Office Mojo

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 31 HORROR FLICKS FOR THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN 2021!

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While I watch dozens of horror films during the month of October…these are a mix of classic favorites and recent horrors that I feel are especially perfect to watch during the Halloween season!

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(Click on the titles below the movie poster gallery to get to our reviews!)

 

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haunt 06Harper (Katie Stevens) and friends visit the wrong Halloween haunt on Halloween night!

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: NIGHTBOOKS (2021)

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NIGHTBOOKS (2021)

Kid friendly horror is based on a book by J.A. White and tells the tale of young Alex Mosher (Winslow Fegley). Alex is an imaginative boy whose love for horror, and writing his own scary stories in particular, has made him a virtual outcast in school. Frustrated with his own interests and the effect they have on his life, the boy runs away from home. He is lured into a strange apartment, which turns out to be the lair of Natacha (Krysten Ritter), a witch who likes to kidnap children. To escape a horrible fate, Alex convinces Natacha that he can tell her a new scary story every night. That is a tall order, especially to satisfy a witch, so not only must he write better and better stories each night, but must team up with her other young captive, Yazmin (Lidya Jewett), to try to outwit Natacha and escape.

Flick is directed by David Yarovesky (Brightburn) from a script by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, who wrote the mediocre The Curse of Llorona. While it’s very colorful and should definitely appeal to the Harry Potter crowd, the flick is missing something to make it really magical. Maybe it’s because it is very dower at times and seems to lack a real sense of devious fun. The only one who gets the material is Krysten Ritter, who gives a delightfully wicked and over-the-top performance as Natacha. She chews the colorful and well-designed scenery in every sequence she is in and steals the flick from her two costars, who sadly are a bit bland as Alex and Yazmin. It’s still entertaining enough and is worth the watch for Ritter and the production design alone, but would have been far more fun with two livelier lead kids and a little more of a wicked wink to it’s audience, like the Goosebump flicks. Flick is currently streaming on Netflix.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: CANDYMAN (2021)

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CANDYMAN (2021)

Flick is interestingly both sequel and reboot of the classic 1992 film of the same name. The movie finds Chicago artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) returning to the now vacant and gated Cabrini Green projects, to add some spooky spark to his creativity, after hearing of the Candyman legend. Anthony learns the hard way to ‘be careful what you wish for’ as he evokes a malevolent entity and bodies start to fall. Even worse, Anthony begins to transform into something out of urban legend. Is the Candyman more than just a folktale and has he returned for new blood?

Delayed sequel is directed by Nia DaCosta, based on her script with Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld. Their script, in turn, is based on Bernard Rose’s classic film, which itself is based on a Clive Barker short story The Forbidden. As a horror film, Candyman has disturbing imagery, very graphic gore and make-up, and some chilling sequences, though is never really all that scary or suspenseful. Where it really succeeds, aside from DaCosta’s flare for visuals, is in presenting some very well rounded characters, and as scathing social commentary. DaCosta, Peele and Rosenfeld not only give us some three dimensional characters to like and become emotionally invested in, but have some bold commentary on both gentrification of urban neighborhoods and the treatment of the black community, especially by police. Candyman is no longer just an urban boogieman, his mantle is picked up from generation to generation by innocents who have faced brutality and injustice at the hands of oppressors and by those who are supposed to protect them and their rights. There are no punches pulled and it’s blunt honesty adds the power to the proceedings that the lack of strong scares did not. The cast are all very good, especially lead Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, the flick has it’s disturbing moments and the gore FX are quite well-rendered when blood flows. It is as a film with a strong message, however, that is where Nia DaCosta and company really breathe new life into a classic horror icon.
 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HALLOWEEN KILLS GETS AN INTENSE FINAL TRAILER!

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HALLOWEEN KILLS GETS AN INTENSE FINAL TRAILER!

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A final trailer has arrived for the sequel to David Gordon Green’s Halloween (2018)Halloween Kills! The film was postponed from it’s October 2020 release date due to COVID 19 closures, but is now scheduled to hit theaters on 10/15/2021! Check out the intense final trailer below!

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-MonsterZero NJ

Source: Blumhouse; Youtube

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES SEPT 17-19

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES SEPT 17-19

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

1. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” $21.7 Million

2. “Free Guy” $5.2 Million

3. “Cry Macho” $4.5 Million

4. “Candyman” $3.5 Million

5. “Malignant” $2.7 Million

6. “Copshop” $2.3 Million

7.  “Jungle Cruise” $2 Million

8. “PAW Patrol: The Movie” $1.75 Million

9. “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” $675,000

10. “Don’t Breathe 2” $665,000

-MonsterZero NJ

source: Box Office Mojo

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