REVIEW: PEARL (2022)

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PEARL (2022)

Prequel to Ti West’s X tells the background story of that film’s horny, homicidal spinster Pearl (Mia Goth). It takes place in 1918 with young Pearl on the farm tending to her ailing father (Matthew Sunderland) while under the strict and watchful eye of her overbearing mother (Tandi Wright), when she’s not sneaking off to the local movie theater. Her husband Howard (Alistair Sewell) is away at war and Pearl sees her dreams of being a dancer fading away. Her frustrations come to a boil when she meets a handsome projectionist (David Corenswet) at the local theater and soon Pearl will do anything to see her dreams come true…even murder.

Pearl is directed by West from a script by he and star Mia Goth and is filmed like one of those old-fashioned technicolor movies of yesteryear about a young girl wanting to be a star…only this one is homicidal. There are some disturbing sequences and some gory violence when things get going. The film is also set during the Influenza epidemic and thus makes plenty of COVID era commentary about masks and paranoia. What holds the film back from being an equal to its predecessor is a very slow pace and long dramatic dialogue sequences between the good parts. It’s a somber and dreary film despite the candy-colored cinematography and it gets tedious in parts till Pearl starts to pursue her dreams with a vengeance and slaughters anyone that gets in the way or makes her angry. These moments do their job, but it’s the in-between melodrama that slows things down and interrupts the more devious tone these scenes have. It doesn’t quite have the sense of naughty fun like X did, though there are some sequences that elicit an uncomfortable giggle like Pearl’s rendezvous with a scarecrow. It’s a decent enough prequel, overall, but not quite the bloody good time X was.

Mia Goth is wonderful as the sweet yet demented Pearl. She lets us know from the very beginning that something is already not right with Pearl. Then she gleefully takes us from girl with stars in her eyes to woman with bloodlust in her heart. She’s like a demented Snow White who has a friendship with all the farm animals, including the local gator. If anything gives this film a pulse and some life, it’s her. Tandi Wright is good as her oppressive, religious German mother Ruth. She is a strong woman whose own dreams where shattered as she now must take care of a sick husband and manage their slowly dying farm. Matthew Sunderland does good work as the very sick and silent father. He communicates much only with his eyes and minimal body language and does it quite well. David Corenswet is solid as the handsome projectionist who sets a fire under Pearl’s dreams and in her married loins. Emma Jenkins-Purro is good as Pearl’s sister-in-law Mitzy and Alistair Sewell appears briefly as Pearl’s soldier husband.

Overall, this prequel had its moments, but despite some disturbing sequences and gory violence, it’s far drearier and more somber than the deviously naughty X. Mia Goth is exceptional as Pearl and the technicolor cinematography makes the carnage quite colorful, but a slow pace and some more tedious sequences between the scenes of mayhem and murder make this flick a lesser prequel to one of the best horror films of the year.

-MonsterZero NJ

  Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) axes.

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REVIEW: BARBARIAN (2022)

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BARBARIAN (2022)

Flick finds pretty Tess Marshall (Georgina Campbell) renting an Airbnb in a desolate neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan for a job interview. She gets there only to find out it’s been double booked, and she has to share it with a stranger named Keith (Bill Skarsgård). That isn’t the worst of her worries, as is what she finds in the cellar upon getting accidentally locked in there. Meanwhile the house’s owner, an actor named AJ (Justin Long), who has been recently disgraced in a scandal, is on his way there and headed straight into the nightmare Tess and Keith are already embroiled in.

Barbarian is written and directed by Zach Cregger and is entertaining, but a bit of a mixed bag. The first act starts out uncomfortable with Tess and Keith meeting under equally uncomfortable circumstances. As the story unfolds and Tess makes a chilling discovery in the basement, the film starts to get creepy and has a few legit scares, before jarringly switching narrative to house owner AJ. This kills any atmosphere or dread and all the tension and the momentum the flick was starting to build, as we leave Detroit to get to know AJ. These sequences have a bit more of a nervous humor to them as the neurotic AJ learns his career died overnight due to a scandal involving an actress. AJ then goes to the house, which he now needs to sell, and eventually finds his way down to the basement and joins the horror. The tension, scares and atmosphere start to build once more, but again is stopped dead as Cregger now chooses to go back to the 80s for a flashback that does fill in some story elements, but also gives us way too much time to breathe after starting to get scared again. We then have the final confrontation, which is fairly strong, but also ends a bit abruptly. Cregger has a good visual eye and can build fear and tension, he just doesn’t know how to maintain it when introducing new characters or offering exposition. Sometimes he also needs to let the camera linger a few more moments, so we can fully get the full impact of what’s happened. There are also two instances which really stretch credibility. One has Keith being totally dismissive when Tess tells him what she’s found…and it sounds disturbing…and police totally dismissing Tess when she goes for help. Any good cop knows the difference between strung-out and terrified. There was still plenty to like here. The film has some decent violence and gore, make-up FX are solid, the villain is effective and the locations beneath the house and around desolate Detroit are creepy. It’s Cregger’s inexperience with making his first feature horror film that takes this down a few notches, when it should have been a blast. It’s technically sound, with the cinematography by Zach Kuperstein very effective, as is the score by Anna Drubich.

The cast are good here with Georgina Campbell being a strong and likable heroine as Tess. It’s actually disappointing that she plays second banana to Justin Long in the last act, when her character is the one we are really rooting for over jerk actor AJ. Bill Skarsgård is solid as Keith. At first we are unsure of him, as we should be in the film’s set-up, but come to like what seems to be a legitimately nice guy. Underrated Justin Long is also good as the panicked, neurotic jerk of an actor AJ, who is far less level-headed than Tess when the horror hits the fan. Rounding out is a role played by Rob Zombie regular Richard Brake, the type of role he plays very well and Matthew Patrick Davis as…well, you’ll find out.

Overall, this was entertaining but at the same time disappointing. There was some real good tension in spots, some legit scares and some very effective violence all stemming from its uncomfortable start. Horror thriller faulters when Cregger loses his grip on his audience, by switching focus more than once when we are just getting scared. It was like bringing a rollercoaster to the top of a climb and then telling everyone the ride is over before the drop. Film also evokes other horrors past and present, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is some good gore, a fairly creepy villain and the cast all perform well amidst some spooky locations. Uneven but still entertained.

-MonsterZero NJ

  Rated 3 (out of 4) maggots, because there were maggots in the theater auditorium, I saw it in!

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REVIEW: THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER (2022)

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THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER (2022)

Fourth solo adventure for the God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) begins with our hero trying to find himself while traveling with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Meanwhile his old flame Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is battling terminal cancer and seeks a more mythical cure in New Asgard. On another world, the death of his daughter and the acquiring of a god killing sword, The Necrosword, transforms the humble Gorr (Christian Bale) into the vengeful God Butcher. Of course, all three storylines collide as Thor is on Gorr’s hitlist and Jane has achieved a startling transformation.

Sequel is directed again by Taika Waititi from his messy script with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson. A messy script translates into a mess of a movie, which sadly takes Thor two steps back from the noble hero of Avengers: Infinity War and turns him into a pontificating goofball. The film is disjointed and jumps from one set piece to another, giving the impression that at just slightly over two hours, there is a lot left on the cutting room floor…which might be a good thing. The whole middle section of the film is a waste of time with a silly visit to the realm of Zeus (Russell Crowe) and accomplishes basically nothing as it leaves us with Thor, a transformed Jane’s Mighty Thor, Korg (voice again by Waititi) and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) to battle Gorr on their own…which is where it started out. The good news is, Gorr is one of the better Marvel villains with Bale creating a truly frightening god-killing boogie man. He needs Thor’s Stormbreaker to open a gateway to an eternal where he can get one wish granted, and he’s not above kidnapping Asgardian children to get it. The scenes on Gorr’s Shadow Realm are some of the scariest scenes conjured in a Marvel film. Take THAT Doctor Strange! The digital FX are quite spectacular, but some of the sets, especially New Asgard, look cheap and make the film look cheap. A Marvel rarity. The battles with Gorr and his demonic minions move well, but the film does drag in spots and overall seems to have no purpose as it leads to an oddly unsatisfying climax. A disappointing follow-up to the well-balanced fun and action of Thor: Ragnarök.

The cast is good. Hemsworth could play Thor in his sleep at this point, and as Waititi’s script requires him to do little but make bold statements between moments of buffoonery and battle, he might as well have.  Thor is played for laughs even more than in Ragnarök and it’s a shame, as Infinity War proved he’s capable of much more. Portman makes a welcome return to the series but as her storyline is tragic, it is a bittersweet return and her chemistry with Hemsworth feels forced this time. Thompson is fun as Queen Valkyrie and deserves her own series or film. Christian Bale makes a strong villain with far less screen time and development then he deserves. He is sympathetic as a father losing a child and very disturbing and scary as a villain with no qualms about kidnapping the children of others. Strong work by the former Batman. Waititi makes Korg endearing and fun as he was in past films and has some of the funnier lines. There are a lot of fun cameos, including Crowe’s pompous Zeus, The Guardians and a returning Kat Dennings’ Darcy, along with some fun surprises too.

Love and Thunder is one of Marvel’s few stumbles, including the boring Eternals, the lackluster Captain Marvel and the equally messy Iron Man 3. It makes a buffoon of a lead character who had far more depth in previous films and squanders a great performance by Bale with too little screentime and character development for his very scary villain. It drags in spots and has an entire midsection which seems only to serve as comic relief and a set-up for Thor 5. The sets look cheap at times and the film as a whole seems to serve no purpose only coming to life when Bale’s disturbing Gorr is on screen. If you do see it, stay through the credits for two of the least interesting mid and post credits scenes in some time. A resounding disappointment.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) Mjölnirs!

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REVIEW: THE BLACK PHONE (2022)

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THE BLACK PHONE (2022)

Thriller takes place in 1978 in a working-class suburb of Denver, Colorado. It focuses on Finny Shaw (Mason Thames) who has enough problems with school bullies and an alcoholic father, but there is also a series of child abductions being committed by a mysterious individual the press has dubbed The Grabber (Ethan Hawke). Finny is kidnaped himself by the masked serial killer and finds himself locked in a sound-proof basement. The boy gets help from unusual sources as a disconnected phone in his prison bares the voices of previous victims and his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw), who shares her late mother’s gift for clairvoyance, tries to help police find him. Is it enough to keep Finny from being The Grabber’s next victim?

The Black Phone is directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister, Doctor Strange) from his script with C. Robert Cargill, based on Joe Hill’s short story. Derrickson smartly gives us a little time to get to know Finny, and his life at the moment, so we are endeared to him when Hawke’s creepy Grabber abducts him. We then intercut between Finney receiving phone messages from beyond, while police search for him with Gwen trying to help through her dream visions. It could have gotten silly quick with both a psychic sister and phone calls from dead kids on the menu, but Derrickson keeps it chilling and tense as Finny tries to find a way to escape. It also helps that Hawke’s Grabber is a disturbing yet grounded psycho who never goes over the top or falls into camp. He remains calm most of the time and that’s scarier. Derrickson only falters by once again letting James Ransone play a borderline goofy character that disrupts the serious tone and overdoing it a bit with his grainy footage schtick, which seems to be the only reason the film is set in the 70s. Gwen’s visions appear like old grainy film stock a la Sinister’s old film footage sequences. It doesn’t fit in as well here. Otherwise, this is a well-crafted thriller with some good lead performances and a worthy confrontation between victim and villain were certain puzzle pieces also fall into place.

The cast are mostly good with a very strong performance by young Mason Thames as Finny. Finny is resilient and smart, but a bit meek at times, despite showing there is some strength inside him. He and Hawke work very well together. Hawke is very good here and once again proves he is a versatile and underrated actor. His Grabber is low key and calm and that makes him all the scarier as he appears confident and in control, despite being obviously very twisted and deranged. Madeline McGraw is also excellent as the apparently psychic Gwen. She’s a tough and sometimes foul-mouthed little girl but determined to find her brother. A very strong performance from the young actress. Not so impressive is James Ranson as Max. This is a goofy and almost unnecessary character, and it interrupts the tension when his goofball antics are on screen. Also weak is Jeremy Davies as the siblings’ alcoholic father Terrance. The character simply should have been stronger and more threatening, thus his change to sympathetic would have been more impressive later on. Otherwise, a good cast!

Overall, this was a solid thriller with some impactful violence and some suspenseful moments. There were some strong performances from the leads, which helps make the more supernatural elements here work. There were a few supporting character missteps, but Hawke and Thames portrayed strong characters that made them good adversaries. An effective and tense thriller from the Doctor Strange director.

-MonsterZero NJ

  Rated 3 (out of 4) wall phones

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REVIEW: JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION (2022)

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JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION (2022)

Supposed final installment of the Jurassic series takes place in a world where dinosaurs now live among us. While the world decides whether to co-exist or destroy the creatures, a self-serving genetic engineering company called Biosyn is using the beasts for their own gain. When they kidnap clone Maisie (Isabella Sermon) and raptor Blue’s baby Beta, Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) find themselves teaming up with series vets Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to infiltrate a dinosaur surrounded BioSyn headquarters to save Maisie, Beta and the world.

Dominion is directed by Colin Trevorrow from a script and story by he, Emily Carmichael and Derek Connolly. As such, it is basically a James Bond movie with dinosaurs. On paper that sounds like a great idea, but sadly Dominion is a tired sequel that shows this series is out of gas. There are top notch SPFX and some entertaining action sequences, but it’s mostly replayed bits from the previous films and makes the cinematic mistake of making dinosaurs dull. There are no risks taken or any innovation with the story or it’s creatures. Between the scenes of 007-ish skullduggery inside the Biosyn headquarters, we once again have a massive super predator, the underdeveloped Giganotosaurus, and once again a certain fan-favorite critter comes to the group’s rescue to take it on. It’s getting tiresome, as are the incredibly two-dimensional villains led by Biosyn’s CEO Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott). It’s a tedious and overlong 146 minutes and one is looking for it to finally be over, long before the actual end credits roll. Obviously, the film takes no risks in its climax either, by wrapping everything up in a neat and predictable bow. A tired and extremely mediocre final(?) chapter.

The cast are fine but are given very little to work with. Pratt and Howard still have some chemistry and are fine as the action heroes/leads. Isabella Sermon is good as an older Maisie and holds her own in the action with the adults. Jeff Goldblum is Jeff Goldblum reprising his role as Dr. Ian Malcolm and even his dialog lacks that sarcastic fun that Goldblum can deliver like no other actor. Dern and Neill are enjoyable as returning Dr. Grant and Dr Sattler but the chemistry between them was oddly absent. B.D. Wong returns as Dr. Wu, who is portrayed as more of a sympathetic character this time, which doesn’t really work. DeWanda Wise is solid as smuggler and pilot Kayla, though Campbell Scott’s villainous Dr. Dodgson is a dull and two-dimensional villain whose schemes including giant locusts don’t even make sense. A good cast with very weak material.

Jurassic World gave this series a jolt of renewed fun and Fallen Kingdom took the series in a bit of a new direction. Dominion sadly shows any revived energy or innovation with the format was short lived and this series is sinking into the tar pits like some of its prehistoric critters. There are a few entertaining action sequences, and it was fun to see classic series characters back in action one more time, but the material doesn’t support the cast or critters to give this series the fitting climactic chapter the franchise and its fans deserved.

-MonsterZero NJ

  Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) T-Rexs

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REVIEW: DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS (2022)

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DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS (2022)

Second solo adventure for Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) finds him being rescued from his former flame Christine’s (Rachel McAdams) wedding, by having to rescue a teenage girl from a rampaging, tentacled monster. The teen is America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) a young woman from another dimension who has the power to travel across the multiverse. A demonic entity seeks her power and now Dr. Strange vows to protect her. Things get complicated when this malevolent enemy is revealed to wear a familiar face and now Strange and his young charge must flee across the multiverse to find the Book of Vishanti, an ancient and powerful tome that is the only hope in stopping their powerful foe.

Sequel is directed by Sam Raimi from a script by Michael Waldron, and Raimi puts both his horror film and Spider-Man film experience to good use. Not only are there some spectacular and fun magic-infused superhero battles, but some very spooky sequences. It is certainly the scariest MCU film to date. Raimi provides a funhouse of zombies, demons, monsters, witches, and some very haunted house style settings, that suit a story filled with supernatural elements mixed in with the twisted physics. The villain is also very effective and sometimes downright scary, but you’ll have to see the movie to find out who they are. There are a few segments where the film slows down a tad, to move the complex story, or provide exposition. Otherwise, once this flick gets going, it’s a wild ride through various multiverses where we are treated to some weird worlds, multiple versions of our hero and some absolutely wonderful cameos that won’t be spoiled here. The special FX and battles are spectacular, the action is fast and furious, and the imagery is some of the best Raimi has ever conjured…as are some of the PG-13 scares. It’s a multiverse carnival ride of spooky Marvel entertainment and another solid entry in this long-running series.

As for the cast…Benedict Cumberbatch has really grown into the role of Strange and he provides a noble and strong, yet not impervious hero. Teen actress Xochitl Gomez makes quite an impression in her first feature film as America Chavez. She plays well both vulnerability and strength, as a young woman being chased across the multiverse and who must fight for her life. She also makes a solid heroine when those fights come. Rachel McAdams is likable and a good heroine herself, portraying multiple versions of Christine. Benedict Wong is noble and fun as Sorcerer Supreme Wong and he deserves his own movie or show! Chiwetel Ejiofor is also good as an alternate universe version of Mordo and Elizabeth Olsen is exceptionally strong as a returning and conflicted Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch. There are a host of cameos that won’t be spoiled here, but they are all well-played and cast.

Once again Marvel and Disney deliver, as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a fun and sometimes spooky romp with veteran director Sam Raim at the helm. There is a lot of action, a myriad of creatures, and some bizarre and visually stunning worlds visited. The film only slows down here and there to advance the delightfully bonkers story, and we have a very strong and scary villain to ad contrast to the noble heroes. It’s an almost perfect mix of horror film and superhero movie and a great way to start the 2022 summer movie season!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) Eyes of Agamotto!

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REVIEW: X (2022)

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X (2022)

Latest indie horror from A24 takes place in 1979 and finds sleazy Texas producer Wayne (Martin Henderson) setting out to make a porn film with stars Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), Maxine (Mia Goth), and Jackson (Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi) along with their two-person film crew RJ (Owen Campbell) and his girlfriend Lorraine (Jenna Ortega). They travel to the remote farm of strange, elderly couple Howard (Stephen Ure) and Pearl (also Mia Goth), who turn out not to be the harmless old folks they seem, and the porn film soon turns into a horror movie…for real.

X is written and directed by Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) and is basically The Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Debbie Does Dallas. It is a good, old-fashioned, grindhouse style flick with lots of sex, gore and flesh crawling moments. X starts out like most of West’s flicks with a slow burn, but one where we start to feel from the very start that something is not right. This prevailing sense of dread builds as things get weirder and weirder and West makes us constantly feel that a threat is soon to emerge, no better symbolized then by the gators lurking about the couple’s property. When the blood finally starts to flow, it’s prosthetic gore and there are some nasty kills to characters we’ve gotten to know and like. Even sleazy Wayne has a good-ole-boy charm that’s hard not to endear to. This makes it all the more impactful when the film crew starts to fall to various sharp objects, shotguns and the before mentioned gators. It’s scary, nasty and in between the violent moments, there are some that will certainly make your skin crawl. The sexual, undercurrent the film has also gets very disturbing…and that’s by design. This is simply West’s best horror since The House of The Devil, and one of the best horrors so far this year. It’s sexy. sleazy, scary and gory…what more do you want from a horror flick!?

Director West has a good cast in support. Henderson gives Wayne a charming appeal that despite his sleazy nature and willingness to exploit his girlfriend, Maxine, makes him a likable rogue. As Maxine, Mia Goth deftly balances a young woman with both a strong sexuality and a gentle sweetness that really makes her character work. Snow is delightfully sassy as Southern belle and porn star Bobby-Lynne, who is no dumb blonde. She’s using her natural talents to make a better life for herself. Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi is also solid as ex-Marine and war veteran turned porn star Jackson. He’s fun and has a nice heroic side. Jenna Ortega is once again impressive as “church mouse” Lorraine who seems sweet and virginal but may not be as innocent as she appears. Owen is likable as filmmaker wannabe RJ, and Stephen Ure and Mia Goth are very creepy—especially Mia Goth—as the elderly Howard and Pearl. A good cast.

Overall, this is one of West’s best films and a refreshingly, old-fashioned horror that leaves all the overdone meta/retconning crap behind. It’s scary, gory and has some moments and kills that will legitimately make your flesh crawl. It has a sexual undercurrent that goes from sexy to disturbing and pays homage to the classic grindhouse era horrors of the 70s, while yet being its own thing. Definitely one of the best horror flicks to come out so far in 2022 and one of West’s most effective horror flicks yet. Stay through the credits!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) knives!

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REVIEW: THE BATMAN (2022)

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THE BATMAN (2022)

The Batman finds a Gotham City overflowing with trash, crime and corruption. Mob bosses and corrupt city officials rule the city, and a lone vigilante dressed like a bat (Robert Pattinson) tries almost in vain to fight the tide of lawlessness. Enter into the scenario a deranged serial killer called The Riddler (Paul Dano) who is exposing and sadistically killing these corrupt officials and a beautiful cat burglar (Zoe Kravitz) with a vendetta of her own, and The Batman/Bruce Wayne finds himself in a maelstrom of conspiracy, murder and sins of the past!

Newest incarnation of the classic character is well directed by Matt Reeves from a script by he and Peter Craig. It is the darkest and most brooding version yet, with scenes bordering on a horror movie, even opening on Halloween night, as the Jigsaw-esque Riddler claims his first victim and we are introduced to Pattinson’s Dark Knight battling a face-painted street gang. The film has plenty of spectacular action, including a thrilling car chase with Batman pursuing Colin Farrell’s Penguin on a busy highway, and some brutal fight scenes. The film also delves heavily into Batman’s detective work, as Riddler leaves clues for him to solve, and Batman/Bruce Wayne finds he himself is involved in conspiracies from the past. There is a touch of romance with Zoe Kravitz’s beautiful and mysterious Selina Kyle, but otherwise this is three hours of violent action and moody intrigue. That is also the drawback in this otherwise delightfully dark tale. At a 2:56 runtime, the film is overlong, and some parts do drag. It is also a humorless and sullen film which doesn’t help one endure the extensive runtime. Some might find it’s predominately bleak tone exhausting. As for those planning to take the kids, it may be too dark and violent, pushing the limits of its PG-13 rating. Kids will definitely be restless at three hours in length. Overall, it is an intense and bleak film, though the end does manage a glimmer of hope for embattled Gotham and its bat-winged guardian. On a production level it is an epic film with its own look, feel and atmosphere with great production design by James Chinlund. There is also a perfectly moody score by Michael Giacchino and sumptuous dark, gritty and shadow-filled cinematography by Greig Fraser.

There is a wonderful and eclectic cast. Pattinson is the darkest Dark Knight yet, with a young, brooding emo Bruce Wayne and an even darker and violent hero than we’ve seen on screen. He is very good as both, though the film does focus more on Batman than the reclusive Master Wayne. This Batman has some anger issues and the Riddler is pushing him to his limits. Zoe Kravitz is purr-fectly cast as Catwoman/Selina Kyle. She has her own reasons to brood, and she is sexy and mysterious, and she and Pattinson make a good team in both gothic romance and action sequences. Paul Dano is very creepy as The Riddler. He is quite different than any version, being more Saw inspired than Frank Gorshin. A couple of times he goes a bit too over the top but is mostly low-key spooky and has a chilling sadistic streak. In support we have Jeffrey Wright making a great James Gordon, Colin Farrell as a sleazy and effective Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot, John Turturro as gangster Carmine Falcone and Andy Serkis is endearing as a feisty Alfred. A great cast in a very dark and intense spin on a classic character.

In conclusion, this was a delightfully adult version of Bob Kane’s classic character making him more dark, brooding and violent than we have seen him before. The portrayal of Gotham is bleak with even Batman bordering on hopelessness at cleaning it up. It skates close to horror with its serial killer-like villain and has only the briefest moments of romance to break up all the darkness. Only thing that holds it back is a mammoth three-hour runtime that drags in a few spots, and as it is humorless and bleak most of the time, it can be a very gloomy sit for some. Once again DC Films is refreshingly pushing the boundaries of its characters.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) bat signals!

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REVIEW: IN SEARCH OF TOMORROW (2022)

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IN SEARCH OF TOMORROW (2022)

In Search of Darkness and its sequel were four-hour documentaries about 80s horror films from producer/creator Robin Block and writer/director David A. Weiner. Now the duo are back with a nearly five-hour documentary about 80s science fiction films called In Search of Tomorrow! The 80s was a great time for science fiction flicks and filmmaker David A. Weiner presents a host of movie footage and interviewees for in-depth coverage of some of the all-time classics, while also focusing on some of the decade’s more obscure films.

New documentary follows the format of the others, covering each year of the decade and some of the films made during that that year. It’s Weiner’s best yet as this flick really holds one’s interest firmly, delivering a fun and informative look back, that keeps the audience engaged for almost five hours! It’s a true love letter to 80s science fiction cinema!

Weiner rolls out a multitude of guests discussing classics, cult classics and some well-intended bombs, from a decade that cranked out sci-fi at a fever pitch! We get scenes from a great number of films, including classics like The Thing, The Terminator, Robocop and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and cult films like Buckaroo Banzai, Galaxy of Terror and Earth Girls Are Easy. We also get interview subjects such as Peter Weller, Nicholas Meyer, Clancy Brown and John Carpenter, to name just a scant few, and we also get some new perspectives like those of journalist Angélique Roché and podcaster Dr. Andrea Letamendi. Actors, directors, FX legends, production designers, along with contemporary journalists and 80s experts, all provide their own point of view and share dozens of personal on-set anecdotes. It makes for a nice variety of perspectives. It’s a wonderful retrospective that really does not feel as long as it is and is delightfully uncensored in both scenes shown and commentary made by its multitude of entertaining guests.

As with the In Search of Darkness documentaries, this one has an extensive running time at four hours and fifty minutes.  It sounds like a long-haul but goes by very quickly and if you are a fan of 80s sci-fi flicks, or even better, old enough to have been there at the time, then watching this is a great way to spend a lazy afternoon, or a Saturday evening on the couch. In Search of Tomorrow is available for pre-order starting today and running till 3/27 at www.80sscifidoc.com. There were a lot of films not covered, so bring on In Search of Tomorrow part II!

MZNJ PERSONAL NOTE: As I said with the last documentaries…Being old enough to have been in a theater for a lot of these flicks, not only did this documentary take me back to my favorite era of movies, but actually brought to my attention a couple of flicks I missed. Bravo again, Robin Block and David A. Weiner!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 (out of 4) terminators.

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MUSIC REVIEW: THE BIRTHDAY MASSACRE-FASCINATION (2022)

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THE BIRTHDAY MASSACRE-FASCINATION (2022)

The Birthday Massacre are a cult favorite band and they have released their latest album, Fascination, two years after 2020’s awesome Diamonds and it is their eight studio album, not counting their live album Show and Tell. The Canadian Goth rockers lead by front-woman Sara “Chibi” Taylor deliver nine solid tunes in the Birthday Massacre tradition that should delight their loyal fans. This newest album is named after the first track on the disc, a moody and melodic song about love and life lessons learned. As with all their tunes, the guitars and keyboards are well-mixed to create their signature sound. Once again this is a consistent album and while each song is worthy of being a favorite, some stand-out tunes are “Cold Lights”, “One More Time”, and personal favorite “Like Fear, Like Love”. The songs are produced by band members Michael Rainbow, Michael Falcore, and Brett Carruthers, who co-wrote them along with lead singer Chibi. The songs are filled with darkly poetic lyrics, that not only tell somber tales of lost love, inner turmoil and other subjects but also evoke haunting imagery when listened to. Chibi’s vocal range is used to full effect, as always, taking us from soulful, to haunting, to melodic depending on what the songs are trying to say. Her musicians’ contributions are all strongly present with the current line-up: Rainbow on rhythm guitar and vocals, Falcore on lead guitars, Phil Elliot on Drums, Owen Mackinder on keyboards and Brett “Bat’ Carruthers on bass. All great musicians who collaborate to form this gothic/rock band’s unique and multi-layered sound that has satisfied fans for literally twenty years! Another solid disc from a band who have delivered original eight albums with not one bad song amongst them. They are also great live, if you are interested in checking them out, and it’s recommended you do!

-MonsterZero NJ

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Photo: The Birthday Massacre

Track Listing

1.”Fascination” 5:05

2.”Dreams of You” 3:24

3.”Cold Lights” 4:19

4.”Stars and Satellites” 4:16

5. “One More Time” 4:36

6.”Like fear, Like Love” 4:26

7.”Once Again” 3:59

8.”Precious Hearts” 4:27

9.”The End of All Stories” 4:23

3 and 1/2 guitars

guitar rating

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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!

22750458

-MonsterZero NJ

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