TV REVIEW: GLOW (2017)

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GLOW (2017)

Glow is a fun and nostalgic 2017 Netflix original show based on the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling tv program that ran from 1986-1990. The original show featured a bevy of female wrestlers performing cartoon-ish stereotype characters and soap opera-esque story-lines along with in-ring matches…which isn’t too much removed from professional wrestling in general. This ten episode Netflix series fictionalizes the creation of the show when struggling exploitation director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) agrees to put an all girl wrestling show together for wannabe producer Sebastian (Chris Lowell) who has a rich mother. Sam’s actual goal is to get “Bash” to fund his next flick. Answering the audition call for the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling are down-on-her-luck actress Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie), her former best friend and ex-soap opera actress Debbie (Betty Gilpin), along with ten other women. The show mixes comedy and drama as it chronicles Sam and the ladies’ struggle to train, come up with their characters and get along, without killing the show, or each other, before they even step into the ring.

Glow starts off a bit shaky, but after a few episodes hits it’s stride quite nicely. The shaky start is due to the need to get the story moving quickly as there are only ten, half-hour episodes to tell it. The show needs to establish Ruth and Debbie as friends, turn them into enemies…when Ruth sleeps with Debbie’s husband (Rich Sommer)…and then thrust them back together as they become the show’s intended star rivals. This is hastily done in the first two episodes and doesn’t quite gel as we never get a feel for them as friends before they are at each others throats, literally. Ruth’s motivations for sleeping with her friend’s husband are never really convincing either. Just not enough time to really make it work. Once this occurs, the show kicks into gear as the production seems doomed from the start, yet the group start to come together like a dysfunctional family to try to make it happen. Not everything works, like an abortion sub-plot that literally lasts for one episode and seems to add nothing, and occasionally some of the humor falls flat, though mostly it works. Otherwise, this is a lot of nostalgic fun, especially if you remember the actual show that inspired it, or are a fan of everything 80s. The finishing touch is that it’s all wrapped in some awesome 80s tunes across it’s ten episodes and the whole thing leaves us wanting more.

The cast work really well and as a character driven show that is important. Alison Brie has shown a flair for comedy in the TV sitcom Community and some of her recent film roles and she shines here as Ruth. Ruth sees herself as an actress and it takes a while for her to get used to this brand of acting, but once she does she dives in with both feet. Brie works very well in the part of a woman desperate to find her place and is adept as the physical comedy, too. Gilpin is solid as Debbie. A respected TV actress who left her soap opera role to be a wife and mother and now finds that home broken by Ruth and that she has a need to be more than a babysitter. Gilpin portrays well a woman with an axe to grind who wants to be star of the show and does so without making her unlikable. Marc Maron is perfectly cast as the somewhat sleazy filmmaker, who does have a heart underneath all that cynicism and sarcasm. He really does good work here at making the guy very likable, even when he’s being a bit of an ass. The supporting cast all are strong, including Sydelle Noel as “Cherry” who becomes the groups trainer, as well as, one of the wrestlers know as “Junkchain” and Britney Young as a gentle giant of a women who only wants to prove she can be a wrestler like her famous father and brothers. A well rounded and well cast group of eccentric and eclectic characters.

So, the show does have a few flaws…and most shows take at least one season to hit their stride…but it overcomes them to become quite engaging. It’s a fun, nostalgic and clever look back not only an era, but one example of that era’s outrageousness. It’s well cast, has some fun moments and mixes the drama and comedy very well nicely. Another fun, entertaining and original show from Netflix!

The cast of Glow

EPISODE LIST

  1. Pilot – directed by Jesse Peretz and written by Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch
  2. Slouch. Submit – directed by Wendey Stanzier and written by Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch
  3. The Wrath of Kuntar – directed by Claire Scanlon and written by Nick Jones
  4. The Dusty Spur – directed by Melanie Mayron and written Sascha Rothchild
  5. Debbie Does Something – directed by Phil Abraham and written by Rachel Shukert
  6. This Is One Of Those Moments – directed by Kate Dennis and written by Jenji Kohan
  7. Live Studio Audience – directed by Jesse Peretz and written by Rachel Shukert
  8. Maybe It’s All The Disco – directed by Sian Heder and written by Nick Jones
  9. The Liberal Chokehold – directed by Lynn Shelton and written by Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch
  10. Money’s In The Chase – directed by Tristram Shapeero and written by Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch

-MonsterZero NJ

3 wrestling rings!
glow rating

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REVIEW: THE YOUNG KIESLOWSKI (2014)

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THE YOUNG KIESLOWSKI (2014)

Indie comedy/drama finds nerdy college virgin Brian Kieslowski (Ryan Malgarini) going to a party one night and meeting adorable and opinionated also virgin Leslie Mallard (Haley Lu Richardson). After some awkward drunken moments, Brian and the young woman hook up. Weeks later Leslie finds out she is pregnant and with twins and wants to keep them, as she is Christian. When confronted with this news Brian, who is currently dealing with his mother’s (Melora Walters) terminal cancer, tries to appear supportive, but is actually quite terrified and the turmoil begins as they travel to tell both sets of parents.

Film is well directed by Kerem Sanga from his own script and is probably more realistic about how things would go in this scenario, especially with today’s self-absorbed generation of youth. It’s aggravating to watch Brian constantly lie about his support of Leslie’s decision to keep her babies and even more infuriating to watch him let his selfishness and fear govern how he treats her and the situation. You sit there waiting for him to man-up and take responsibility for his part in her pregnancy, but all he does is lie to her face and run from his responsibilities. In the meantime we feel terrible for poor Leslie whose own rich, self-absorbed author father (James LeGros) wants her to have an abortion, or he will cut off her college funding and money to live. Brian outwardly pretends to side with Leslie, but secretly hopes her father convinces her otherwise. It’s actually heartbreaking to watch so many other people trying to decide what’s right for the young woman without taking her feelings or opinion into consideration. The only ally she really has is Brian’s terminally ill mother. It’s a lot of drama for a film that sometimes quite awkwardly, tries to interject humor into it’s scenario, which doesn’t always work and occasionally makes one uncomfortable as this would be a serious situation in real-life. If the film has any major flaw, it’s the humor doesn’t always mix well with the subject and one would like to think writer/director Sanga isn’t trying to make light of a young woman in such a predicament and wanting to make her own choice. Perhaps there is a thinly veiled statement here as the male characters favor abortion, while the women favor keeping the babies. Echos of our own country where male politicians seem to feel they can speak for women’s right’s…without the woman’s point of view being considered. Hard to believe that this was unintentional as we watch Brian secretly hope Leslie doesn’t go through with having what are his children, too…another point he seems to miss. One other gripe is that at no point do any of the characters mention the option of adoption. It’s either abortion or nothing on the side of those opposed to her keeping her babies and it was infuriating that at no point does anyone suggest a possible compromise of giving the children up for adoption. You’d think at least Brian’s mom would have suggested it, being one of the only people who cared about how Leslie felt. Was this not touched upon for dramatic purposes? Only writer Sanga knows for sure.

The director does have a very good cast even if we want to punch his lead character sometimes. Ryan Malgarini does convey well the terror and selfishness of an already somewhat immature young man who now has to grow up and do the right thing. It makes one angry to see how little consideration Brian gives to Leslie’s feelings and how selfishly he runs from being there to support her and being a man and taking responsibility. It’s a good stretch of the film where Brian becomes unlikable for his lack of maturity and how he hurts Leslie and in that, the actor plays the part very well. We are actually proud of Brian when he finally grows up and steps up and Malgarini makes that work even though we wanted to throttle Brian for the last hour. As Leslie, Hayley Lu Richardson (The Last Survivors, Split, Edge of Seventeen) once again proves she is a star in the making. Her Leslie is a fiery, opinionated young woman and seems to have a good heart and a pretty good head on her shoulders, even if she can be impulsive. Despite her strength and resolve, she still generates a lot of sympathy when the person she should most trust in, Brian, doesn’t support her and outwardly betrays her. That and having her own father try to force her to make a decision she feels isn’t right, is heartbreaking and Richardson has us by the heartstrings without taking her character into over-the-top melodrama. She has a strong screen presence and once again shows her versatility in yet another type of film. The girl has talent. James LeGros is an underrated actor and once again gives a strong performance as the self-absorbed Walter Mallard. He wants his daughter to do what HE thinks is right, ignoring her opinion and the fact that he was a young dad and his life and daughter turned out alright. He doesn’t even consider letting her make her own decision and being supportive and respectful of that. Legros, as with Malgarini, is a good enough actor to make us smile when Walter changes his mind. There is also good work from Joshua Malina as Brian’s father Robert, who is not ready to become a grandfather yet, and a wonderful supporting performance by Melora Walters as Brian’s terminally ill mother who becomes Leslie’s only true supporter and whose only concern is to see her grandchildren before she leaves this world.

I liked this movie. It stirred up some emotions and dealt with the difficult situation of pregnancy at a young age and the resulting turmoil, probably more honestly than one wants to admit. It boldly allowed it’s lead character to behave in a irresponsible and sometimes borderline cold manner and really makes us wait for him to do the right thing. Director/writer Kerem Sanga gets some really strong work from his cast and quite possibly was making a statement about men arrogantly making decisions about a woman’s right to choose. If the film has any flaws, it’s that sometimes the attempts at humor don’t fit the situation and we would like to think Sanga wasn’t making light of a serious subject, just choosing awkward moments to lighten the tone. If you like indie flicks, this is worth checking out.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 pregnancy tests!

 

 

 

 

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MUSIC REVIEW: THE BIRTHDAY MASSACRE-UNDER YOUR SPELL (2017)

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THE BIRTHDAY MASSACRE-UNDER YOUR SPELL (2017)

The Birthday Massacre is one of my favorite bands and they have released their latest album, Under Your Spell, three years after 2014’s awesome Superstition and it is another solid album from a band that have yet to disappoint. The Canadian Goth rockers lead by front woman…and now, author…Sara “Chibi” Taylor deliver 11 solid tunes in the Birthday Massacre style that should delight their fans just as the previous album did. This album is named after the second track on the disc, a beautiful and melodic song about a painful love and the regret that comes with it. It is one of the best tunes on a consistently engaging album. The album starts out with the moody One before giving us our title song and then moves on to the slightly more guitar heavy All Of Nothing before launching into the remaining tunes. While each song is worthy of being a favorite, other stand-out tunes are Counterpane, Games, Hex, No Tomorrow and the final track Endless, another personal favorite on this album and a great way to close it out. The songs are once again produced by band members Rainbow and Michael Falcore, who co-wrote them along with Chibi and Aaron J. Cunningham with Matthew O’Halloran contributing as well. The songs are filled with darkly poetic lyrics, such as “A bed of nails beneath these sheets” and “You were like a dream because you never came true”, that not only tell a somber tale but evoke haunting imagery when listened to with the lights dimmed and the mind free of distraction. Chibi’s vocal range is used to full effect again taking us from soulful, to haunting, to a chilling growl…like on No Tomorrow…depending on what she needs to convey. Her musicians’ contributions are all strongly present with current line-up: Rainbow on rhythm guitar and vocals, M. Falcore on lead guitars, Rhim on Drums, Owen on keyboards and Nate Manor on bass. All first-rate musicians who collaborate to form this gothic/rock band’s unique and multi-layered sound that once again permeates Under Your Spell. Another quality disc from a band who have, so far, delivered on each album they’ve released…and are great live, if you are interested in checking them out!

-MonsterZero NJ

Track Listing

1.”One”  3:35

2.”Under Your Spell”  4:31

3.”All Of Nothing”  3:31

4.”Without You”  4:42

5.”Counterpane”  3:32

6.”Unkind”  3:56

7.”Games”  3:40

8.”Hex”  3:37

9.”No Tomorrow”  3:20

10.”The Lowest Low”  3:54

11. “Endless” 3:14

3 and 1/2 guitars

guitar rating

The Birthday Massacre

Check out my review for Sara “Chibi” Taylor’s tale of death metal and revenge Boring Girls by clicking on the highlighted title or the photo below!

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REVIEW: WONDER WOMAN (2017)

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WONDER WOMAN (2017)

After appearing in last year’s Batman v. Superman and stealing that film away from her male co-stars, the comics’ leading female superhero is getting her own solo movie and it’s an origin film at that.

The movie opens with Diana aka Wonder Woman as a child (Emily Carey) on the Amazon home island of Themyscira. She is daughter to Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and being trained in the fighting arts by her aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright). One day, as she has grown to adulthood (Gal Gadot), a plane carrying American spy, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes off the island and he is rescued by Diana. A boatload of German soldiers is following him and soon the warrior women of Themyscira learn of the horrors of mankind’s war, specifically WWI. Diana is horrified and believes only the God Of War, Ares could be responsible. She returns to Europe with Trevor planning to defeat Ares, but along the way learns that people can really suck.

Third film in the DC movie universe is pretty much like the last two in that there is a lot to like and yet, there are some glaring problems, too, that keep it from really clicking. One of the biggest is that this series of films takes itself a little too seriously and there are some gloomy moments and heavy atmosphere here in Wonder Woman. Another is that they are a bit overloaded, where a more streamlined story would do. It’s refreshing that they want to have a different style and tone than the Marvel flicks, but all three films (Man Of Steel, Batman v. Superman and Wonder Woman) have been very bombastic and story heavy, though at least here director Patty Jenkins shows some restraint until the now DC traditional over-indulgent CGI climax. The script by Allan Heinberg, from a story by he, Jason Fuchs and Zack Snyder, still tries to cover too much ground with an origin story, a story about the horrors of war, a story about feminism and a story about battling gods. It makes the film feel choppy, especially as the origin seems rushed, as does Diana’s decision to go to war. Once we get to Europe, the film then heads to it’s climax trying to cram all the story elements in the remaining hour. Even at 141 minutes there seems to be a lot of stuff left on the cutting room floor and this keeps the film from having a smooth narrative flow which doesn’t help as the flick already has a more moderate pace than the average superhero saga. The film never really finds it’s groove. It also keeps us from getting to know any of the supporting characters, especially the villains (Danny Houston as a sadistic general and Elena Anaya as an equally sadistic scientist), who come across as bland. What keeps one interested is that there are some nice moments between Gadot and Pine and once Gadot finally suits up, about an hour into the film, Wonder Woman’s first scene soars…then we go back to the dreary horrors of war stuff till she has her showdown with Ares. The film does have a hard time maintaining it’s momentum, even with some very strong moments of our heroine in action, which are actually few and far between. It’s more about Diana learning about the real world than Wonder Woman saving the day. The mix could have been more even.

Biggest plus in this film’s favor is Gal Gadot who is wonderful as both Diana and Wonder Woman. She really nails the fish out of water aspect and the almost naive nature of a goddess among men for the first time. She also maintains a sense of dignity and strength which really cranks up to 11 when she suits up. She has grown as an actress and really fits the role like a glove in just her second outing. She’s perfectly cast. Chris Pine is fun here too, though seems to be playing a slightly toned down version of his Kirk. He and Gadot do have a great chemistry together and it is some of their little character exchanges that really entertain. Sadly their romance is also rushed and we never really get to feel the emotional resonance of it to give certain scenes impact. As stated Danny Houston plays stereotypical sadistic German general, Ludendorff. Houston is kind of bland here, though not really his fault, as is Elena Anaya as his equally underwritten right hand, Doctor Isabel “Dr. Poison” Maru. David Thewliss also appears as a British Intelligence officer who supports Trevor’s plans to go after Ludendorff on the eve of an impending armistice.

In conclusion, this film sadly suffers some of the same overloaded and over-indulgent aspects of the last two DCU films, though director Patty Jenkins does reign it in a bit and makes good use out of her leading lady’s dead-on performance and the chemistry between her two leads. Gadot’s first scene as Wonder Woman is worth the price of admission alone and it makes us wish Jenkins didn’t go all Zack Snyder (who also produced) for the over-blown CGI slug-fest with Ares. There was enough story for two or three films and the flick rushes to fit it all it, though there are some nice humorous bits in between the heavy-handed melodrama. Jenkins does balance the messages about the evils that men do and women’s rights in nicely without allowing them to become obtrusive and the film’s flaws aside Gadot is an awesome Wonder Woman.

The DCU is slowly headed in the right direction, though will audiences be patient enough for them to really lock in the right mix of elements, hopefully in one of the upcoming planned flicks.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Wonder Women cause Gadot was great!

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: ALIEN: COVENANT (2017)

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ALIEN: COVENANT (2017)

WARNING: There might be some details here that could be considered as spoilers to those who want to go in knowing as little as possible. Some plot elements had to be divulged somewhat in order to give an accurate opinion. -MZNJ

Prometheus was a pretentious mess that tried to expand on the Alien franchise by delving into our creation and thus that of the Xenomorphs. It didn’t make good on it’s initial ideas and had a crew of supposed genius scientists doing incredibly stupid things. Ridley Scott tries to repair a bit of the damage with Alien: Covenant, which brings us closer to the world he introduced us to in 1979. The flick takes place ten years later with the spaceship Covenant heading to populate a new world with a small crew and over two thousand colonists in hyper-sleep. A massive neutrino burst blasts the ship causing damage and forcing the ship synthetic, Walter (Michael Fassbender) to awaken the crew. While engaging in repairs, they receive a signal from what appears to be a human source on a nearby planet. Upon investigation, the crew finds out not only the fate of Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Repace) and the synthetic David (also Michael Fassbender), but discover an awaiting nightmare that they may not escape from.

New chapter in the Alien saga is definitely better than Prometheus, but that’s not saying much, nor is it by the amount needed to restore complete faith in this prequel series. This one is written by John Logan and Dante Harper, from a story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green and the first hour is actually quite dull till we reach the unknown planet and find the synthetic human David living in what appears to once have been a city of otherworldly beings. There the film picks up a bit as it takes on a sort of Frankenstein twist as David has been quite busy playing God on his new world. It then takes till the last act where we start to get some of the action we came for and some familiar faces make their appearance…and that’s also the other problem. At this point the Xenomorph’s are far too familiar to be really frightening and it is the messianic David that really chills one as there are definitely a few screws loose in his reattached, megalomaniacal head. In these scenes the film livens up and delivers some chills as our unsuspecting, stranded crew have no idea what little ole David has been doing to relieve the boredom…but they’re going to find out. There is some surprisingly abundant gore and the film is sumptuous looking, as are all of Scott’s films, but it all comes to a terribly predictable end that we can all see coming almost an hour away. There are a few scenes along the way with some impact…alien interrupted shower sex anyone?…but otherwise it’s the same ole, same ole right up to how the remaining crew decide to deal with the critter…really, after almost 40 years you’re still sticking with that???

The cast are good, though the characters here are very thinly written and it’s hard to connect on an emotional level with anybody but the chill-inducing David. Katherine Waterston is our heroine Daniels Branson and while she is fine in the last act when she goes all Ripley, she really doesn’t make much of an impact until then. One wonders where all the piss and vinegar comes from as she is played very low-key up till that point. Comic actor Danny McBride stands out a bit as pilot Tennessee. McBride is very restrained here and plays the role very seriously…as the film is basically humorless, anyway. He makes a solid hero even if, like Waterston, he doesn’t get to cowboy-up till the last act. Really standing out doing exceptional work is Michael Fassbender as both David and Walter. As Covenant synthetic Walter we get the boyish innocence and Spock-like logic we expect from these android characters. It is when he gets to chew the scenery as the messiah/Dr. Frankenstein mash-up that is David, he really chills with his performance and out-does the creepy critters in the goosebumps department. His relationship with the newer model Walter is quite interesting as he tries to convince the synthetic to see things his way. The scenes revealing what David has been up to the last ten years are among the best in the movie. Once we go back to the alien loose on the ship format, it gets very ‘been there, done that’. As for the rest of the cast that populate this prequel sequel, they are basically two dimensional alien fodder and we never really care about them or remember their names for that matter.

In conclusion, yes it was better than it’s predecessor, but not by much and it takes over an hour to really get going. The characters are bland, the aliens at this point are too familiar to be truly frightening and their antics are getting stale. What makes this movie worth watching is Michael Fassbender’s truly chilling portrayal of David and the messianic Dr. Frankenstein he’s become. His relationship with the xenomorph’s is a highlight, though it does unintentionally clue us in as to how this is all going to end…and it ends exactly how you think it’s going to. Not the pretentious mess that was Prometheus, but still a long way from the original classic or James Cameron’s awesome sequel.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 alien eggs.

 

 

 

 

Be Warned: this is the Red Band trailer…

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REVIEW: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017)

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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017)

Guardians Of The Galaxy was a blast of fun and a big hit for Marvel, so it’s no surprise the oddball band of heroes are back for another go around, this time bringing movie legends Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone with them. The film opens with The Guardians saving the day for a race called The Sovereign, but getting on their bad side before the dust even settles. This sets them on the run and into the sights of a celestial being called Ego (Kurt Russell) who claims to be Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) father. Peter finds out he may have celestial powers of his own, but the more he bonds with his newfound father, the more Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) feel that daddy isn’t to be trusted. In the meantime, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Yondu (Michael Rooker) and “baby” Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) have to deal with mutinous Ravagers, angry Sovereigns and a vengeful Nebula (Karen Gillan).

Second adventure is an entertaining ride, thought not quite as much rapid-fire fun as it’s predecessor. Sequel is again written and directed by James Gunn, who returns with his quirky, sarcastic sense of humor that made the first flick stand out in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After a first film sometimes moved too fast, this film dials it back during it’s middle act to take time to allow Peter and Ego to bond and along the way deliver some backstory on more than one character. While father and son take long walks on Ego’s self-made world, Raccoon and Yondu also have some bonding moments as Ravager prisoners, where souls are bared and alliances made. It’s certainly not boring, but it does take a bit more time for the action to fire up again while we get some character development for characters both old and new. Ironically, the first film rushed the character development while this one makes it more the focus….maybe slightly too much for it’s own good at over 136 minutes. Once we discover daddy is a baddy and our displaced heroes reunite, then we get a spectacular and action packed finale that amusingly evokes the climax of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, but with far better FX and a lot more fun. The before mentioned visuals and FX are truly stunning and the action is quite exhilarating once it comes and it comes in spades. There are some hilariously funny bits and some very funny exchanges between the characters, who still have that twisted love/hate relationship with each other. When the group is split into two separate plot lines, the film doesn’t quite have the same spark as when this bunch of self proclaimed “A-holes” are all together trying not to kill each other, or be killed. If there is a flaw with this worthy sequel, it is that it does disrupt the group chemistry by separating them for almost an hour. The film is at it’s most fun when they are all together and joined by new characters, like Pom Klementieff’s empathetic and naive Mantis and Sylvester Stallone’s veteran Ravager Stakar, who fit in quite well to the mythos. The film also has a touch more sentimental than we would expect from this delinquent group. It’s a bit corny at times, but it serves to cement the dysfunctional family unit that they are. This bunch is together for a reason…and they’re accompanied by another killer soundtrack of classic tunes!

The cast are all on point. Returning actors slip back into their now beloved characters flawlessly and as per the story, get to add a little depth to their roles, including the CGI Rocket and scene stealing baby Groot. The actors have a chemistry together and thus do the characters they bring to life. As for new faces, Kurt Russell is charming and charismatic as Ego. We almost believe, as does Quill, that he is the benevolent being he claims, looking finally to be a father to his estranged son. Once he reveals his true nature, Russell chews the scenery in just the right measures of megalomania. Sylvester Stallone also fits into the Guardian’s world well as a legendary Ravager named Stakar Ogord. He only has a few scenes but it is implied we haven’t seen the last of him and it’s nice to see Sly doing his larger than life thing in the Marvel universe. Adorable Pom Klementieff steals scenes as the delightfully ditzy empath called Mantis. She’s a fun and very likable character and never lets her performance go too over-the-top so that she becomes annoying. She fits in nicely and has some very funny scenes with Bautista’s all too literal Drax. The large cast of supporting and secondary characters also shine when they get their moments, too, such as Chris Sullivan’s boorish Taserface and a returning Sean Gunn as Rondu’s right hand, Kraglin. A solid cast with the usual funny cameo by you-know-who!

Overall, this was a fun adventure and a worthy sequel. It did slow down the pace down a bit for a more character driven middle act and may have had one too many sentimental moments for it’s own good, but there is still plenty of eye-popping special effects, hilariously sarcastic moments, rapid-fire action and some sumptuously rendered alien creatures and world’s. We get some of the character development that was a bit lacking in the first film, though do sacrifice some of that great group chemistry and dialog exchanges when the story chooses to separate them. Still highly recommended for fans of the original and a solid start to the summer 2017 movie season.

…oh…and, obviously stay through the fun credits for FIVE additional scenes!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 cassettes.

 

 

 

 

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BOOK REVIEW: HOW I MADE A HUNDRED MOVIES IN HOLLYWOOD AND NEVER LOST A DIME by ROGER CORMAN

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I know this is the Movie Madhouse but, I will review a book now and then, one that I really loved or one that pertains to the movie world….and what pertains more than a book by one of the greatest producers that ever lived… Roger Corman!

HOW I MADE A HUNDRED MOVIES IN HOLLYWOOD AND NEVER LOST A DIME by ROGER CORMAN with JIM JEROME

In the pages of this autobiography from legendary film producer/director Roger Corman, he tells firsthand of his journey to becoming one of the most successful filmmakers of all time. He details his humble beginnings in Detroit to his family’s move to Beverly Hills then on to college and his first job at a major studio where the film-making bug first bit. He shares with us how he cleverly financed his first film The Monster From The Ocean Floor and thus began his prolific…and sometimes tumultuous…career as a director and producer. Corman takes us on a fun ride of clever financing, seat-of-your-pants film-making, world travel, giving first opportunities to many future stars and legends and even some of the lovely ladies he met making movies, including his wife Julie. It’s a vastly entertaining book from the man himself detailing how he was able to beat the Hollywood system and become the film geek, household name that he is. The book traces his life and career up to the point where he returned to directing after a long hiatus to helm Frankenstein Unbound, which, as of now, stands as his last full length feature as a director.

As a huge fan of Corman, I had a blast with this book. The master producer details how he produced films his way and rarely had a box office disappointment in his illustrious career. He gives generous details on the making of such early classics as It Conquered The World and Not of This Earth to some of the New World classics such as Death Race 2000 and Piranha. We get anecdotes from some of the talents who got their start with Corman and went on to be legends themselves like Joe Dante, Francis Ford Coppola and Sylvester Stallone and also from Corman regulars like Dick Miller, Chuck Griffith and Beverly Garland. It’s a humble telling of a fascinating life from the man who lived it and a host of people who had the honor of working for/with him. If you are a fan of Roger Corman and his films, it is a must read. If you are simply a fan of movies and the film-making process, I still highly recommend you hear these great tales about one of Hollywood’s greatest maverick film-makers from the man himself and some of those who joined him on his ongoing journey.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Corman creatures!

forbidden world rating

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REVIEW: LOGAN (2017)

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LOGAN (2017)

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This dark comic book thriller takes place in the future where the mutants are all but gone and “The Wolverine” Logan (Hugh Jackman) keeps a low profile as a limo driver and takes care of an Alzheimer’s afflicted Professor X (Patrick Stewart), who is in hiding in Mexico. Logan, who is now aging and losing his ability to heal due to his own ailments, is contacted by a woman (Elizabeth Rodriguez) begging him to take a little girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) to a safe haven in South Dakota…a safe haven for mutants. Soon Logan finds Laura is very much like him and now he, the girl and The Professor are in a race across country for their lives as the sinister forces that created Laura want her back.

Flick is intensely directed by James Mangold from a script by he, Michael Green and Scott Frank and finally gives fans the R-rated Wolverine adventure they have been craving. The violence reaches horror film levels as does the intensity, though Mangold gives the proceedings some nice emotional depth amidst the carnage. The film is smaller and more intimate in scale, giving this tale room for some strong character development, especially as our beloved heroes are both aging and ailing and no longer who they used to be. This also allows for some nice moments between Logan and Xavier, as well as, time for Wolverine to reluctantly bond with Laura, as the two have a lot in common. There is still plenty of bone breaking and skull splitting action as Logan gets into numerous battles with the villainous Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and his army of well armed henchmen, including genetically created mutant X-24 (also Hugh Jackman). The battles are quite vicious and gory, especially when Laura enters the fray and she may be more a true Wolverine than Logan at this point. The fact than the film has a strong emotional core makes these scenes even more effective and gives weight to all the violence and keeps us engaged during the character driven moments in-between. A very intense and well done final chapter in Wolverine’s legacy and finally the solo film we have been hoping for.

The film is said to be Jackman’s farewell to a character he has played on screen for almost two decades and he really gives it his all. Jackman was always good at giving Logan that cynical but noble edge and here he adds in a weariness from age and pain as Logan’s abilities are fading due to the long-term effects of the adamantium in his body. He gives The Wolverine a strong emotional center as we see the character succumbing to age and illness, yet still not completely accepting he’s not the hero he used to be. If this is truly his last appearance with his claws, he gives the character a strong send-off with one of his best performances. Same could be said of Stewart as the ailing Charles Xavier. Stewart presents him as sadly feeble, yet still strong of heart and quick of wit. Professor X is endearing as always and it effects us as we watch him dealing with an illness that ravages the part of himself he cherishes most. It is also a fitting farewell to a character he has played as long as Jackman has played Logan, if this is his last time in the role. Dafne Keen makes quite an impression as Wolverine “mini-me” Laura (also referred to by the Transigen bad guys as X-23). She is genetically linked to our hero and is quite the chip off the old block. Keen gives quite the performance as a little girl with amazing abilities and who is quite as much a powder keg as her genetic father. As for our villains, first up is Boyd Holbrook as lead bad guy Donald Pierce. He is threatening and condescending and Holbrook makes the metal-armed thug very unlikable as he should be. There is also Richard E. Grant as Dr. Zander Rice, the man who not only created the new mutants, but had a hand in eliminating the others. He’s more of a generic evil scientist, but works within the context of the story. Rounding out is Stephen Merchant as Caliban, one of the remaining mutants who cares for Charles Xavier and has the ability to track other mutants. Merchant makes a likable character caught in the middle, unfortunately, of Transigens plans for Laura. A good cast helping the director deliver a strong story.

Finally a Wolverine solo film we can sink our claws into. Logan was intense, vicious and yet had emotional depth and solid performances from the cast. It is a fitting farewell to Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine and Stewart’s Charles Xavier, as well as, an entertaining and very adult superhero flick that pushes the boundary of it’s R-rating. Highly recommended.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 and 1/2 adamantium bullets.

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: BRIMSTONE (2017)

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BRIMSTONE (2017)

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Grim western tells the story of Liz (Dakota Fanning), a midwife married to a widower and with a child of her own. One day a mysterious, scarred preacher (Guy Pearce) comes to town, a man of the cloth that Liz knows from her past and greatly fears. This preacher knows her as well and proclaims that he has come to make the young woman suffer and bring her to retribution. Who is this man and what has Liz done to incur his wrath?

Over the next two and one half hours of writer/director Martin Koolhoven’s harrowing film, we go into Liz’s past to find out the answers to those very questions…and a harsh journey it is. The film is told in four parts with the middle two parts going back further and further into the story to tell us  how this quest for revenge began and how and if “Liz” earned it. It is not a pleasant journey and we bare witness to some cruel and hard events, as well as, some shockingly graphic violence along the way. To go in depth too much would be to spoil the mystery and even if he crafts an unpleasant film, Koolhoven does make an intriguing one, whose mysteries we want answers to. It’s suspenseful and many of the images and events we witness have impact and weight that stays with us. The film takes us through a series of sometimes unpleasant events that bring us to where our story opens…and then comes to an equally harsh and unsettling finish. It’s not perfect. At 148 minutes, it is a bit long, especially as it is not a happy tale and there are a few glaring mysteries left unanswered, such as how one character escaped what seems like a certain death. Add to that, the overall unpleasantness of the story and some of it’s subject matter and you have a well crafted film that is not always easy to watch. On a technical level it is a solid production with Koolhoven showing he knows how to frame a shot. There is nice cinematography by Rogier Stoffers and an effective soundtrack by Junkie XL along with some effective sets and settings for within which the story takes place.

The cast are all quite good, which helps keep us with this grim tale. Dakota Fanning proves quite the strong actress in her portrayal of Liz. We have a woman with a past who will fight to save the family she now has, but as strong as she is, this “Preacher” fills her with dread and fear and she conveys that to the audience, so we share her feelings. It is a solid performance with many facets for the young actress to portray…and she portrays them well. Guy Pearce is imposing as the mysterious and vicious “Preacher”. Whether his quest for retribution is just or not, he is a vicious and cruel man. He commits horrible acts and even as we go back into the past to see how this story began to unfold, we are treated to a hard and sometimes brutal man, who seems to be using his religion to excuse his actions. Pearce really gives this man a black heart that makes the character truly frightening. Emilia Jones is also very good as the younger “Liz” who goes by another name. Jones has to act out some very harsh and uncomfortable scenarios and the young actress does very strong work and it makes for a seamless portrayal of the younger version of Fanning’s frontier midwife in peril. The cast also features good work from supporting actors such as Carice van Houten as “Liz’s” mother and Game Of Thrones’ Kit Harington as an outlaw who crosses paths with our main characters at one point.

This was a very well made film, but not one you could say you enjoyed. It deals with some harsh subject matter and is sometimes cruel and unpleasant. One can definitely appreciate the talent of the director/writer and the craft of his cast, but it still is a tough watch at times. It is a bit long, even though it has a lot of story to tell and even at it’s length, there are some questions that remain. Recommended, but only with the understanding that this is not a pleasant film by any stretch.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 guns.

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REVIEW: KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2017)

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KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2014)

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This new version of the King Kong legend takes place in 1973 at the end of the Viet Nam War when an uncharted island is discovered by satellite in the center of a perpetual storm system in the South Pacific. The monster hunting Monarch organization from Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla wants to send an expedition in, with the hopes of getting there before the Russians find out about it. Agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) heads the expedition team, including former SAS tracker, James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), combat photographer, Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) and a military escort lead by Lt. Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). Immediately upon reaching the island, they find a hostile environment populated by hostile creatures and manage to piss off the ruling predator, a 100 foot tall ape the local natives and stranded WWII airman Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) call Kong. After a confrontation with Kong that leaves the military escort decimated and the expedition stranded, the group begin to plan their escape from the island…all but the vengeful Packard, who wants to finish what he and the enormous simian started. Little do they realize, that there is a greater threat living beneath the grounds of Skull Island and Kong may be their only hope of surviving it.

The entire reason this reboot exists is to set up the eventual collision between the giant ape and Godzilla, now that Warner Bros has the rights to both and is starting their proposed Marvel-esque “Monster-verse”. In a way it shows, as this flick is directed somewhat by-the-numbers by Jordan Vogt-Roberts from a script by three writers, no less, including Godzilla scribe Max Borenstein. This new interpretation is a fun monster movie that is loaded with action and filled with an assortment of critters, but by removing the tragic elements and the Beauty and The Beast angle from the original story, the makers remove the parts of the tale that resonated the most and gave it emotional depth. Now it’s just a routine monster movie and while it does entertain, it is also a bit forgettable once the credits finish rolling. Vogt-Roberts moves things fast enough, but never succeeds in giving the film a sense of wonder or an emotional center. Even Kong seems more of a generic monster here, though a bit of a noble one and we don’t endear to him like previous incarnations. The film is still a fun time, but not much is going to stick with you after it’s over. The FX are top notch and the monster scuffles are fast and furious, but the film lacks the heart and soul that the original classic…and even, to a lesser extent, Peter Jackson’s remake…had that made them memorable and endearing. Aside from re-introducing Kong in order to set up another movie with The Big G, there really isn’t a point to this version and despite the monster menagerie and some likable characters, it’s a bit shallow, when all is said and done.

The cast are all good, though and overcome some stale dialog to make their characters enjoyable to watch, aside from the big CGI ape. Hiddleston is solid as former military man Conrad and proves again he is leading man material. Here he plays a tough guy with a heart and does so very well. Brie Larson is also very charming and likable as seasoned photographer Mason Weaver. She can scrap and battle monsters with the boys and hold her own with both Kong and Samuel L. Jackson and not loose her girl-next-door appeal. She conveys a strength and grace that should bode well for her upcoming MCU turn playing Marvel super-heroine Captain Marvel. Goodman avoids the clichés that come with government operative characters and gives his Bill Randa a boyish sense of wonder at what he has found on Skull Island. While the character did keep secrets, he is never portrayed as a villain. Samuel L. Jackson is dead-on as the battle-hardened warrior who is not going to let a giant ape get away with wiping out his squad, especially after a disappointing exit from the Viet Nam conflict. Jackson’s bravado and intensity does make him a suitable adversary for the gigantic ape. Rounding out the leads is John C. Riley, who gives the film a little comic relief and some heart as a man who has been stranded on the primordial island since WWII and has bonded with the natives and learned how to survive it’s beastly population. His Hank Marlow provides us with some important exposition about Kong and his homeland, too. The supporting cast are all fine, as well and the strong cast helps make this as fun as it is.

Overall, this is a fun Saturday or Sunday matinee monster movie with plenty of creatures and numerous monster brawls to pass the time. The solid cast elevates a routine script and some stale dialog and the film is fast paced enough to keep us from thinking too much about things. The tragic soul of the original story is lacking and while there is a brief bonding moment between Kong and Larson’s Mason Weaver, the epic Beauty and the Beast element is missing as well. This Kong never gets to see New York or fall in love, but if he is still a growing boy as Hank Marlow seems to suggest, he should be big enough to lock horns with Godzilla as Warner Brothers plans them to do in 2020…which is the entire reason we got this movie. A fun, but forgettable monster mash.

Be sure to stay through the credits for a Marvel-esque post credit sequence that reveals Godzilla’s “co-stars” in the upcoming Michael Dougherty directed sequel Godzilla: King Of The Monsters due in 2019.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 big apes.

 

 

 

 

 

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